VIO News Blog

November 10, 2008

Venezuela to Increase Border Security to Fight Drug Trafficking

Venezuela will build five military posts along its nearly 1,500-mile long border with Colombia, according to the AP this morning. They will be used in the fight against drug trafficking, the country’s justice minister said. Venezuela is not a drug producer, but has been hammered by U.S. allegations that it does too little to interdict illicit goods from neighboring Colombia, the world’s largest source of cocaine. According to the news, “Chávez said Venezuela is doing everything possible to crack down on Colombian leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and other criminal groups that operate along the border.”

In other international news, Venezuela and Russia agreed last week to form a joint development bank with $4 billion in capital. Bloomberg reports that this is one of 15 agreements signed by leaders. Another involved natural gas refining. Interestingly, Venezuela may consider using the Russian ruble as its currency for international exchange, rather than the dollar.

Late last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Venezuelan consulate in Houston was closed and staff visas revoked by the the U.S. State Department as punishment for allegedly making an unauthorized change in administrative offices. The Chronicle quotes an academic who says, “given the political tensions between the two countries, “I would not be surprised if this were interpreted as a political move.” However, Venezuela’s Ministry of Information released a statement Sunday saying that the issue had been resolved diplomatically by both governments.

In a somewhat related story, Reuters analyzes the potential for change in U.S.-Venezuela relations under an Obama presidency, predicting that tensions will remain. The assumption that President Chavez needs to maintain anti-U.S. positions to stay popular at home, though, is a common misconception. His electoral platforms have not centered on anti-Americanism, but rather, domestic anti-poverty programs and national sovereignty. Another Reuters article highlights President Chavez’s supposed militarism, citing his passing comment that he would “use tanks” to defend the return of the oligarchy to government. The Chavez administration does not, however, endorse violence, nor does it repress the opposition. Voting in Venezuela’s regional elections is now two weeks away.

Finally, in economic news, President Chavez said last Friday that slumping oil prices are only temporary and, according to Bloomberg, that “the world will increasingly need more energy.” Today, Reuters reports that oil rose by $2 to reach $63. Algerian OPEC President Chakib Khelil said that the group could adjust production in order to gain crude prices of between $70 to $90. Venezuela has also emphasized the need for stable prices.

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