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US Report Faults Anti-Drug Efforts of Venezuela, Burma


A U.S. State Department report Friday said Colombia and Afghanistan remain the world's biggest producers of illicit cocaine and opium. The annual report faults Venezuela and Burma for inadequate efforts over the past year to try to tackle the drug problem. VOA's David Gollust has details from the State Department.

The massive two-volume report, mandated by Congress, identifies 20 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa as major illicit drug-producing or drug-transit countries.

But it praises several of them for efforts to combat the problem, notably Colombia and Afghanistan. It says only Venezuela and Burma have "failed demonstrably" to fulfill international commitments to fight the drug trade.

Introducing the report, Assistant Secretary of State for Narcotics and Law Enforcement David Johnson said while Colombia is the source of 90 per cent of the cocaine reaching the United States, the Bogota government is making "notable progress" against narco-terrorists who only recently threatened the country's stability.

Similarly, Johnson praised the Mexican government of President Felipe Calderon for what he termed "decisive actions" to combat increasingly violent Mexican drug gangs operating on both side of the U.S.-Mexican border.

"We have a partner that has made clear that it wants to work with the United States," said Johnson. "President Calderon has made some real steps that were tough for him to make in order to confront organized crime within his country. And we want to work with the government of Mexico because we think we can make significantly more progress by working together, and we actually think we face a common threat here."

Johnson said nearly all the cocaine that reaches the United States from South America passes through Mexico and Central America.

In a relatively new trend, he said cocaine moving through Venezuela is reaching European markets via west African transit points - notably according to the report, Guinea-Bissau.

Johnson declined to accuse the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez of complicity with traffickers but said that government is providing "no real cooperation" with the United States.

"When we observe the trafficking from Venezuela both north into North America - the United States and Canada - as well as to Europe, we don't see significant measures, or any real measures, taken to counter that," said Johnson. "And that's obviously of great concern to us. It's of great concern to the countries in the Caribbean, which are the intermediate stops for significant parts of this transit, and we're troubled by that."

The report's listing of Venezuela and Burma as failures in the drug fight would mandate a cut-off of U.S. aid to those countries. But in the case of Venezuela, President Bush has issued a waiver allowing continued U.S. funding for programs supporting civil society, and what are termed "beleaguered democratic institutions" there.

There is no direct U.S. aid to Burma, said to be Asia's largest source of methamphetamine pills. The report says Burma's record against illegal drug producers and traffickers is inconsistent.

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