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US Anti-Drug Report Faults Venezuela, Burma


A White House report says Burma and Venezuela failed during the past year to make substantial efforts to curb drug trafficking or cooperate with the United States on the issue. Venezuela and Burma were among 20 countries listed in the report as major drug-producing or narcotics-transiting countries. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here say being on the list of major drug-producing or transit countries does not necessarily mean a government is not trying to deal with the problem.

The report said only Burma and Venezuela have failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts to adhere to international counter-narcotics agreements or to cooperate with Washington in accordance with various U.S. anti-drug laws.

The annual report, compiled by the State Department and issued Monday by the White House, is required under an act of Congress.

Countries determined to have failed in anti-drug efforts can face major cuts in American aid, though the President has broad authority to waive penalties, if that is determined to be in the U.S. national interest.

The 20 countries appearing on the so-called majors list were the same as the previous two years and include Afghanistan and Colombia, the largest producers, respectively, of illicit opium and cocaine.

At a news briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-narcotics Christy McCampbell commended both the Afghan and Colombian governments for their anti-drug efforts.

But she said the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez, for whatever reason, has spurned renewal of a drug cooperation accords with the United States while apparently allowing drug trafficking to flourish:

"We still do work with the police there and do eradication efforts," said McCampbell. "One of our greatest concerns, though is there corruption there with narco-trafficking. And it is such a transit country. It is just becoming a real hub for drugs moving on through that country. A lot of it is going to Europe. It is not necessarily all coming to the United States. But we need to come to an agreement with them."

The White House report said despite expressions of good intentions, drug seizures by Venezuelan authorities have been limited and there is a lack of significant drug inspections at ports of entry and exit, including along the Colombian border.

It said Venezuela's importance as a transshipment point for drugs continues to increase, a situation enabled by corrupt officials and a weak judicial system.

But President Bush has waived aid penalties so that the United States can continue support to what were termed "beleaguered democratic institutions in Venezuela".

The report said Burma is the largest source of methamphetamine pills in Asia and that its efforts against traffickers in that synthetic drug have been inconsistent.

Though Burmese counter-narcotics efforts were termed overwhelmingly negative, the report said opium production there has declined more than 80 percent from its peak, partly due to government efforts.

The White House report said despite a strong anti-drug commitment by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, a third of the Afghan economy remains opium-based and that the government at all levels needs to be held accountable to deter poppy cultivation.

It cited an uneven anti-drug effort by Bolivia, whose President Evo Morales once headed the country's coca-growers federation.

It also said the West African state of Guinea-Bissau, though not among the 20 major drug countries, is becoming a refuge and transit hub for cocaine traffickers from Latin America.

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