Venezuela snaps drug ties with US

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has dismissed cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration as unnecessary thus taking his country's fraying ties with the United States to a new low.

    Chavez (c) says he will continue drug cooperation with others

    The Venezuelan leader, an ally of Communist Cuba and harsh critic of US foreign policy, said he had suspended cooperation with the DEA and accused the agency of spying against his government.
       
    "The DEA was used as a cover... to carry out intelligence work in Venezuela against this government," Chavez told reporters as he voted in local municipal elections.
       
    "Under these circumstances, we decided to shut down these agreements... the DEA is not essential to the fight in Venezuela against drug-trafficking. We will keep working with international organizations against drugs," he said. 
        
    Declining relations

    A spokesman at the US embassy in Venezuela could not be contacted for comment.

    "The DEA [US drug Enforcement Agency] was used as a cover... to carry out intelligence work against this government"

    Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President

    The suspension of cooperation on fighting drug trafficking follows Chavez's decision in April to end joint military operations and exchanges with the United States and order out US instructors he said were stirring dissent against him. 
       
    Chavez gave no other details of his latest charges; but he often accuses Washington of plotting to topple or kill him.

    The United States, a key client for Venezuelan oil, rejects Chavez's repeated accusations and views him as a threat to stability in the region.
       
    Cocaine route

    Both countries had agreed until recently to work on combating drug trafficking; but cooperation has been strained by mistrust, corruption and the chilly relations between Caracas and Washington, foreign security officials say.
       
    Venezuela is an important transport route for cocaine and heroine from Colombia to Europe and the United States.

    Experts estimate as much as 300 tons of cocaine passes from Colombia through Venezuela each year while cash and guns are flown back the other way. Drug hauls by Venezuelan troops are small in comparison.
       
    Venezuelan officials until recently had said they would continue to work with Washington on drug operations; but they admitted they had moved to curb some activities by DEA agents

    .&n

    SOURCE: Reuters


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