Venezuela and U.S. officials approve new anti-drug agreement
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan officials said Thursday that they have approved a new anti-drug agreement with the U.S., months after the South American nation suspended cooperation amid allegations of U.S. spying.”We have resolved our basic differences and we hope that we will be able to sign soon,” said Salome Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.The new agreement will go into effect once it has been signed by Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon and U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, said Luis Correa, Venezuela’s top anti-drug official.Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez halted cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in August. He accused U.S. agents of spying, a charge the U.S. has repeatedly denied. Venezuelan officials said they would only be willing to work with the U.S. under new terms, under which the DEA would not be permitted to lead drug busts.Neither U.S. nor Venezuelan officials offered details of the new arrangement.Chavez has had bitter relations with Washington and last year the U.S. said Venezuela had failed to effectively fight drug trafficking, and removed the nation from a list of cooperating countries.Venezuela serves as a corridor for drugs, mostly Colombian cocaine, destined for the United States and Europe. Venezuelan authorities say large recent seizures show they are making major strides against smuggling.Correa said late last year that Venezuelan authorities had seized at least 72 tons of drugs in 2005, up from 43 tons in 2004.The White House said last year that despite an increase in seizures, Venezuela hasn’t done enough to halt a growing flow of narcotics – mainly from Colombia to the United States and Europe. By U.S. estimates, 165 tons of cocaine passed through Venezuela in 2004.Vail, Colorado
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