February 3, 2008

Documenting it: Chavez, FARC and the coke trade

Quico says: Last month, Spain's El País caused a stir with this bombshell of an article on the collusion between FARC and the Venezuelan government. The journo, John Carlin, gets major props for digging up the story in detail even before Chávez took his support for FARC public.

Today, The Observer* publishes a revised version of Carlin's story. If anything, this English version is even stronger: better edited, clearer and even more hard hitting. It makes for a devastating indictment of Venezuela's creeping metamorphosis into a narco-state. Some key grafs:
The varied testimonies I have heard reveal that the co-operation between Venezuela and the guerrillas in transporting cocaine by land, air and sea is both extensive and systematic. Venezuela is also supplying arms to the guerrillas, offering them the protection of their armed forces in the field, and providing them with legal immunity de facto as they go about their giant illegal business.

Thirty per cent of the 600 tons of cocaine smuggled from Colombia each year goes through Venezuela. Most of that 30 per cent ends up in Europe, with Spain and Portugal being the principal ports of entry. The drug's value on European streets is some £7.5bn a year.

The infrastructure that Venezuela provides for the cocaine business has expanded dramatically over the past five years of Chávez's presidency, according to intelligence sources. Chávez's decision to expel the US Drug Enforcement Administration from his country in 2005 was celebrated both by Farc and drug lords in the conventional cartels with whom they sometimes work. According to Luis Hernando Gómez Bustamante, a Colombian kingpin caught by the police last February, 'Venezuela is the temple of drug trafficking.'
Sobering stuff. You really can't afford not to read the whole thing.

* for reasons I could never quite fathom, English newspapers are run by a separate editorial staff on Sundays, and publish under a different name. The Observer is basically The Guardian in its Sunday best.