It’s an understatement to describe the relationship between the US and Venezuela as strained. The two countries have a history of expelling each other’s diplomats after spats over petroleum, democracy, and human rights. However, that tension was taken to a new level recently when US judges quietly unsealed indictments charging two former top Venezuelan police officials with drug trafficking.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Judges in the southern district of Florida unsealed indictments against Pedro Luís Martín, a former head of financial intelligence for Venezuela’s secret police, and Jesús Alfredo Itriago, a former counternarcotics official with Venezuela’s investigative police.
US law-enforcement officials consider Mr. Martín to be a major player in Venezuela’s burgeoning drug-trafficking industry. U.S. officials believe he is a key liaison between drug traffickers and top figures in Venezuela’s military, security services and government who protect the trade.
By virtue of being next-door neighbors with the cocaine factory that is the nation of Colombia, Venezuela is an ideal haven for drug producers and traffickers. For over a decade, some US policy makers have been pushing for the US government to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism for allowing the Colombian narcoterrorist group known as the FARC to operate within its borders. Venezuela mostly serves as a transit country, with cocaine shipments departing by plane for layovers in Honduras before stopping in Mexico for land transport across the border. US officials believe that approximately 131 tons of cocaine moved through Venezuela in 2013—about half of Colombia’s annual estimated production that year.
Venezuela is technically a democracy with presidential elections held every six years. However, for all practical purposes, the country has been run as a dictatorship for decades by extreme left-wing socialists who view Cuba’s Fidel Castro as a role model. While Venezuela supplies the US with only 9 percent of its oil imports, that seems to be enough to encourage the US government to overlook many political and diplomatic transgressions b the Venezuelan government. Per the Journal, the indictments were unsealed without fanfare, suggesting that the US doesn’t want to draw attention to Venezuela’s flourishing drug trade in the run-up to the country’s crucial legislative elections in December.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.