Media Center



January 23, 2008 - Washington, DC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General Ramdin, fellow Permanent Representatives of Member States,

I have listened attentively to the presentation this morning by Ambassador Valero on Venezuela’s new national drug control strategy. It appears to be a comprehensive, positive program that has the potential to have great impact if fully implemented. However, we categorically reject the assertion that discussion of drug flows in the region constitutes an act of aggression.

We commend this national strategy for its focus on combating aerial and maritime trafficking; its creation of National Inter-Institutional Networks; comprehensive demand reduction; a network for control of money laundering; and other elements.

This strategy, if implemented, opens a window of opportunity, not only nationally for Venezuela, but within the hemispheric arena.

The fight against counternarcotics is a transnational fight. It cannot be won country by country, but must be addressed in a regional fashion. Strategic links exist between countries and sub-regions, and are being consistently strengthened through programs such as the Merida Initiative, initiated recently between my country and the governments of Mexico, and of Central America.

We recognize the responsibility of countries to reduce drug demand, as well as drug supply, and the need to form partnerships to address both components of this international scourge.

It is our hope that Venezuela’s national counter drug strategy will enable the development of a new strategic alliance between Venezuela and all the countries of the hemisphere, including the United States.

The United States has consistently sought a strategic counter-drug partnership with Venezuela. It has existed in the past, and can exist in the future.

However, in seeking to forge such an alliance, we have encountered resistance. Instead of a spirit of cooperation to confront a shared challenge, we have encountered constant rhetorical attacks, to which we have been witness here this morning. And in the absence of partnership, we have seen disappointing results.

Venezuela has failed in the past few years to take effective action against the increased flow of illicit drugs from eastern Colombia into Venezuela and then onward to Hispaniola, the United States, Africa, and Europe. We hope this new counterdrug strategy, which Ambassador Valero just presented, will help improve this situation.

Estimates of cocaine transiting Venezuela just in drug flights alone have increased from 27 metric tons in 2004 to a projected 150 metric tons in 2007. The total amount of cocaine transiting Venezuela is about 250 metric tons, up to a third of the total cocaine production coming out of South America.

The flow of drugs through Venezuela is increasing corruption and putting enormous pressure on the democratic institutions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

This alarming increase in drug transits and lack of effective action on the part of Venezuela recently moved President Bush to determine that Venezuela failed demonstrably in 2007, as in 2005 and 2006, to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.

Venezuela is also a victim of drug trafficking. Trying to blame others while ignoring the problem only attracts the traffickers to operate in Venezuela.

It is important to note here the role of the FARC, which in addition to being a terrorist organization, is also a significant narcotics trafficking organization. It is difficult to understand how a country dedicated to fighting drug trafficking could simultaneously support the FARC, carrying out a campaign to legitimize this group which has been rejected the world over.

We recall that in the 2005 "Declaration of Port-Of-Spain on Strengthening Cooperation on Strategies To Sustain and Advance the Hemispheric Fight Against Terrorism," all member states -- including Venezuela -- affirmed that "the threat of terrorism is exacerbated by connections between terrorism and illicit drug trafficking, illicit trafficking in arms, money laundering, and other forms of transnational organized crime and that the resulting alliances and benefits derived from those connections are or can be used to support and finance terrorist activities."

This recognition of terrorist and illicit drug connections was reaffirmed further in the "2006 Declaration of San Carlos on Hemispheric Cooperation for Comprehensive Action To Fight Terrorism" by all member states -- with the notable exception of Venezuela, which deviated from its position taken in 2005 and did not support the shared view among all other member states that there exists a connection between terrorism and transnational organized crime.

In the "Declaration of San Carlos," we as member states also recognized that "the activities of transnational organized crime can be used by terrorist groups to finance and facilitate their criminal activities." My government continues to fully agree with this statement of fact, despite the efforts of one notable member state to abrogate the importance of this issue through various OAS negotiations.

Mr. Chairman, we urge the Government of Venezuela to engage in partnership with its neighbors, and all the countries of this hemisphere, to combat the shared scourge of drug trafficking.

And Mr. Chairman, while I still have the floor, at the last meeting of the Permanent Council there was a statement made by the ambassador of Nicaragua, accusing my country of being a state sponsor of terrorism, pointing to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For reasons of discipline and protocol, Mr. Chairman, I did not respond to this baseless and scurrilous accusation so as not to detract from the important message brought to this Council by the distinguished ambassador of Colombia requesting the support of Member States for Colombia’s sovereign right to defend itself—Defend itself from attacks by terrorist groups within its borders, as well as intromissions into Colombia’s domestic affairs by those who today choose to attack Colombia’s sovereignty while defending terrorist groups that for far too long have perpetrated heinous crimes against the brave citizens of that country.

It is important at this point, Mr. Chairman, to set the record straight. The comments from the Nicaraguan ambassador – in addition to lacking any semblance of diplomacy and civility – were quite simply untrue and we categorically reject them.

For the benefit of this body and for benefit of Ambassador of Nicaragua, let me be clear on my country’s policy in the war against terror. We condemn terrorism and terrorists, irrespective of the cause they pretend to espouse. We are engaged in a global campaign against terrorism to protect our citizens, our democratic way of life, our freedom and our prosperity. My government has demonstrated time and again that it is fully committed to preventing our enemies from establishing a safe haven from which to attack.

Mr. Chairman, my government is also firmly committed to continue working through this institution to build on the spirit of multilateral cooperation in order to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism in all of its forms.

As an firm example of our shared commitment to the important work of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, I would like to further recall for the Ambassador of Nicaragua that all OAS Member States, except one, reaffirmed last year in the “Declaration of Panama” that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, whatever its origin or motivation, has no justification whatsoever, affects the full enjoyment and exercise of human rights, and constitutes a grave threat to international peace and security, democratic institutions, and the values enshrined in the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other regional and international instruments.”

Mr. Chairman, in that Declaration’s vehement condemnation of terrorism, we as OAS Member States also declared it “criminal and unjustifiable under any circumstances, regardless of where and by whom it is committed, and because it constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security and to the democracy, stability, and prosperity of the countries of the region.”

And so, with these strong statements in mind, I strongly urge the delegation of Nicaragua to take heed of the commitments it has agreed to -- through this and through other declarations of the Committee against Terrorism.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, while there is no written rule for how diplomats are expected to engage in this body, I believe there is a fundamental understanding that representatives from Member States do not make undiplomatic accusations, lacking all semblance of decorum and civility even in circumstances in which we may not agree.

Mr. Chairman, the Ambassador from Nicaragua clearly crossed that line. It is regrettable, and telling, that he did so while failing to mention the most vicious terrorist attacks in history against the citizens of this hemisphere -- in my country, in Argentina -- not to mention the ongoing attacks by terrorist groups in Colombia.

It is unfortunate that any member state representative should feel so compelled to attack the United States in order to defend terrorist organizations – whether it is the FARC, the ELN, Al-Qaeda or any other entity.

May I remind you, Ambassador Moncada, that in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as we gathered together in unity of purpose to approve the Inter-American Democratic Charter, citizens from 30 of our 34 member states were murdered by the enemies of freedom that morning.

The memory of those victims – indeed all victims of terror – and their relatives throughout this region and the world deserve better.