Obama laments drug war failures

By SAPA Time of article published Sep 14, 2012

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Washington - US President Barack Obama Friday accused Myanmar, Bolivia and Venezuela of having “failed demonstrably” to fight the drug trade, but said aid to those countries remains vital to US interests.

This is the fourth year in a row all three countries have been on the counternarcotics “black list,” put out each September in a White House memorandum, in setting US drug policy.

But new this year is the line advocating full continued cooperation in the Latin American and Asian countries.

“I have also determined ... support for programs to aid Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela is vital to the national interests of the United States,” Obama wrote, using Myanmar's former name, as all US government documents do.

Last year, Obama advocated “limited” cooperation in Venezuela. And there was not yet any cooperation at all in Myanmar, which was ruled for decades by generals before they gave power to a nominal civilian government in 2011.

The administration did not immediately make public its reasons for singling out the same three countries again.

But in the 2011 memo, the president wrote that Venezuela was “one of the preferred trafficking routes out of South America,” thanks to its “porous western border with Colombia, weak judicial system, inconsistent international counternarcotics cooperation and generally permissive and corrupt environment.”

The government of leftist President Hugo Chavez, a staunch US critic, does not officially “encourage, support or facilitate” illegal drug trafficking and related activities, but Obama alleged that, nevertheless, some officials “were credibly reported” to be involved in the drug trade.

The president's 2011 report also slammed Bolivia for expelling the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, saying it “has seriously harmed Bolivia's counternarcotics capability.”

The country's own anti-drug efforts have been improving, but they “have not been adequate to compete with the rising drug trends that have brought Bolivia back to high coca cultivation and cocaine production levels,” he wrote.

And in Myanmar, Obama had noted that opium cultivation had been rising in two states, with minimal government response, and that the government blocked observation of poppy fields, citing safety concerns due to military unrest.

Bolivia, Myanmar and Venezuela are among more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia and Mexico, listed as “major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries” in the 2012 memorandum. - Sapa-AFP

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