the new york times

US Report Charges Drug Flow Rising in Venezuela

Jul 21--A U.S. congressional report on drug trafficking in Venezuela charges that corruption within the government and military has led to a permissive environment that allows smuggling to flourish.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, released Monday, details U.S. officials' concerns that Venezuela has extended a ''lifeline'' to Colombian rebels and other illegal armed groups that rely on drug sales for financing ''by providing significant support and safe haven along the border.''

The report says U.S. officials believe ''a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military, and other law enforcement and security forces contributes to the permissive environment.''

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who requested the report, said in a statement that the findings heighten his concern that ''Venezuela's failure to cooperate with the United States on drug interdiction is related to corruption in that country's government.''

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has defended his government's counter-drug efforts and condemned the report Friday after a draft was leaked, calling it ''a new lie'' by the U.S. government.

He called the United States ''the top drug trafficking country on this entire planet'' and said such reports are used to demonize his government. Venezuelan officials insist that large drug seizures and recent arrests demonstrate their resolve to fight smuggling of Colombian cocaine.
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