US says politics hinders aid to Andes drug fight
US aid helps South America's anti-drug fight but thorny relations with Venezuela and Bolivia hinder efforts there, creating new openings for traffickers, the US government warned Thursday.
An audit report into the aid program said that in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez rails against US "imperialism," efforts are "constrained by the Venezuelan government's antagonism toward the United States."
This has resulted in a growing influx of cocaine trafficking from neighboring Colombia.
In Bolivia, US cooperation also suffers from "a difficult bilateral relationship ... which has adversely affected counternarcotics operations in that country," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said.
In 2008, La Paz expelled the US ambassador and representatives of USAID and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The United States provided some $5.2 billion in anti-drug aid to Andean countries between 2006 and 2011.
Colombia received some 76 percent of the aid, or $3.92 billion, with only 13 percent, or $659 million, going to Peru, now poised to overtake Colombia as the world's top producer of cocaine.
Some $366 million went to Bolivia and $233 million to Ecuador, at seven and five percent respectively. Venezuela received $7 million, or less than one percent, the GAO said.
Over the reported period, annual anti-drug aid to the region as a whole fell by 51 percent, from $1.189 billion in 2006 to $588 million in 2011.
Colombia, a close military ally of the United States, has received some $8 billion in aid since 2000, according to the State Department.
But as Bogota has reined in its legendary cartels much of the production has shifted to Peru and Bolivia and the trafficking to Mexico and Central America, where crime has skyrocketed in recent years.