Chavez blames Obama for US report alleging spike in Venezuelan drug trafficking

By Associated Press 8:05 PM EST, February 28, 2009

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez on Saturday rejected a U.S. report alleging that drug trafficking is soaring in Venezuela, stepping up his criticism of President Barack Obama following the U.S. leader’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The State Department report, which covers global anti-drug efforts in 2008, was compiled while President George W.

Bush was in office but approved this month by the Obama administration. “Is there really a new government in the United States, or is Bush still in charge?” Chavez told supporters in a poor Caracas neighborhood. “Don’t mess with me, Mr. Obama.” The report asserts that drug trafficking soared fivefold in Venezuela from 50 metric tons (55 tons) of illegal drugs in 2002 to an estimated 250 metric tons (275 tons) in 2007 as cartels took advantage of the country’s “geography, corruption, a weak judicial system, incompetent and in some cases complicit security forces and lack of international counternarcotics cooperation.”

It said Chavez’s government had refused to cooperate on most joint anti-drug efforts, rejected U.S. criticism and accused the U.S. government of working with drug traffickers. Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005, accusing its agents of espionage. Two DEA agents still work in Venezuela, but embassy officials say their efforts have been severely restricted. Chavez on Friday dismissed an annual State Department assessment of human rights around the world that highlighted what it called Venezuela’s politicized judiciary, corruption and harassment of the political opposition and the news media.

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