Venezuelan government officials rejected the US government's renewed placement of Venezuela on a list of principal countries where illegal drugs are transported or produced, calling it a political maneuver meant to weaken the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments at a time when both are confronting potential coup d'états waged by domestic opposition groups.
A press release from the White House on Tuesday named 20 countries which "failed demonstrably" over the past year to comply with international drug control agreements.
"They are trying to de-legitimize and discredit the governments which are not in agreement with them," said the former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez. "It is an absurd policy that, instead of resolving the problem of drugs in the world, increases it," said Alvarez.
Alvarez left the US last week after Venezuela expelled US Ambassador in Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, for suspected involvement in coup plots in Bolivia and Venezuela. Bolivia also expelled US Ambassador Philip Goldberg from its country last week on suspicion that Goldberg was helping to coordinate the violent destabilization campaign underway in eastern Bolivia.
Bolivia was the only country the US added to its list this year. Venezuela has been on the list since 2005, the year it cut off relations with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on suspicion that DEA agents were spying.
Although the US government authorizes itself to deny aid to countries it places on the list, Tuesday's press release assured that aid to Venezuela and Bolivia will continue, because "support for programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions and continued support for bilateral programs in Bolivia are vital to the national interests of the United States."
The press release did not specify the destination of funds to be sent to Bolivia and Venezuela. In past years, the US congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) organizations that supported the coup against President Chávez in April 2002.
David Johnson, Assistant US Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, denied that the list reflected ulterior political motives and told reporters that adding Bolivia to the list "was not a hasty decision."
The director of the Venezuelan National Anti-Drug Office (ONA), Nestor Reverol, said the list violates the United Nations Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, which was passed by the UN General Assemly in 1974.
Article 32 of the Charter establishes that states do not have the right to employ economic measures which coerce another state to subordinate its sovereign rights, Reverol pointed out.
The Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and Justice, Tarek El-Aissami (pictured), who recently replaced former Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, called the list a "weapon of domination."
"We are a country with clear policies based on the principle of co-responsibility with other countries," said El-Aissami in a press conference. He said Venezuela is willing to share its experiences in anti-drug trafficking techniques, but "we are not going to permit the United States to impose on us policies that are not precisely for the fight against drug trafficking."
Cocaine seizures in Venezuela increased during the first five years of the administration of President Hugo Chávez, and have decreased since 2005. Venezuelan officials say the decrease reflects a drop in the quantity of drugs passing through Venezuela, while the US holds that drug transport through Venezuela has increased.
Bolivian Government Minister Alfredo Rada commented Tuesday, "This anachronistic, unilateral mechanism of certification, which does not correspond to the times in which Latin America is living, is an ineffective measure."
Bolivian President Evo Morales supports the cultivation of the coca leaf, which can be processed into cocaine, for traditional, legal use, recognizing the crop's cultural and economic importance for Bolivia's majority indigenous peasant population.
Morales also cited government intelligence reports this week that show that the separatist governor in the wealthy eastern province of Pando hired drug traffickers and paramilitary troops to carry out the recent massacre of 16 indigenous peasants as part of a campaign to destabilize the federal government that began last month.
Other countries that appeared on the US's list on Tuesday were Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.
James Suggett writes for Venezuela Analysis.