LatinNews Daily - 13 March 2017

New Mexican ambassador arrives in Washington

Venezuela:  On 2 March, the US State Department released the latest instalment of its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), in which it described the “demonstrable failures” of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Myanmar (Burma) in adhering to its international obligations to fight drug trafficking. The singling out of these three countries in the INCSR is based on the recommendations made by former US president Barack Obama (2009-20017) in September 2016, when he identified the three countries as having failed in their duties to combat the drug trade over the previous 12 months. The criticism included in the latest INCSR was met with scorn the next day from both the Bolivian and Venezuelan governments, with Venezuela’s foreign ministry accusing the US of double standards for being the “world’s leading drug market” and failing to tackle the laundering of money from the drug trade. Meanwhile Bolivia’s President Evo Morales questioned the findings of the INCSR in a tweet: “Colonial Bolivia under imperial domination: 37,000 hectares of coca. The Plurinational State: 20,000 hectares. Where is the demonstrable failure?”. Morales was alluding to the estimated level of coca plantation area in Bolivia before he took office in 2006 and the level of legal coca plantations now permitted by his administration as part of its policy of “social control” of coca production used for traditional uses in Bolivia. The US has long disagreed with Bolivia’s coca policy amid concerns that a significant amount of legally grown coca in Bolivia is ultimately destined for illegal cocaine production. Meanwhile the accusation against Venezuela in the INCSR report comes after the US government designated Venezuela’s Vice-President Tareck El Aissami as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker under the Foreign Kingpin Designation Act for believing that he “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela”. But the Venezuelan government rejected the accusations against El Aissami and in the INCSR as unfounded.   

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