Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bush: Bolivia Joins Myanmar, Venezuela On Drugs Blacklist

WASHINGTON -- US President George W. Bush has declared that Bolivia, Myanmar, and Venezuela failed over the past year to live up to their obligations to battle the narcotics trade, the White House said Tuesday.

Bush's move, announced in the annual US presidential findings on the illegal drug trade, added Bolivia to Myanmar and Venezuela, which were already on the list in 2007 as countries that "failed demonstrably" in that regard.

But he waived resulting restrictions on aid, saying assistance to Venezuela's "democratic institutions" and support for "bilateral programs" in Bolivia were "vital to the national interests of the United States."

The decision was announced in a memorandum for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dated Monday but released Tuesday, listing "Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2009."

"I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela," Bush said.

Bush noted that appearing on the list "is not necessarily an adverse reflection of its government's counter-narcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the United States."

Instead, it can be "the combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced despite the concerned government's most assiduous enforcement measures."

Bush, who has ordered more US troops to quell a deadly resurgence of Islamist fighters in Afghanistan, said the Kabul government of President Hamid Karzai had "made some progress" in fighting poppy cultivation.

"However, drug trafficking remains a serious threat to the future of Afghanistan, contributing to widespread public corruption, damaging legitimate economic growth, and fueling violence and insurgency," he said.

Bush cited "difficult security conditions" as well as drug-related corruption -- "one of the most intransigent problems in the country" -- as major obstacles to eradicating poppies, the raw material for opium and heroin.

Bush said Canada, the biggest US trading partner, had become a "significant producer" of highly potent marijuana and club-drug "ecstasy" but expressed optimism about the country's anti-drug strategy.

Bush praised India's "strong track record" of controlling its legal opium production and distribution but said it "cannot let up" to ensure that legal product do not get diverted to illegal markets.

He also expressed concerns about illicit opium poppy production in some parts of the country, and urged India to "continue to investigate cases of large, illicit poppy production and accordingly bring perpetrators to trial."

The US president expressed concerns about drug trafficking in Central America, citing operations by cartels feeling tougher counter-narcotics regimes in places like Mexico and Colombia.

"Often unimpeded, traffickers use long Central American coastlines for illegal maritime drug shipments. Even though there have been noteworthy seizures, a high proportion of drugs transiting Central America are not detected or seized," he said.

Bush also cited the need for international help for West African countries that have become "key transit hubs" for South American cocaine and lack the resources to battle the narcotics traffickers who undermine their stability.

Source: Inquirer.Net

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