Venezuela is a major drug-transit country. A porous western border with Colombia, a weak judicial system, inconsistent international counternarcotics cooperation, generally permissive law enforcement, and a corrupt political environment have made Venezuela one of the preferred trafficking routes for cocaine from South America to the Eastern Caribbean, Central America, the United States, western Africa and Europe. The President of the United States determined in 2011 that Venezuela had failed demonstrably to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.
The Government of Venezuela’s counternarcotics efforts are led by the National Anti-Drug Office (ONA). Enforcement is principally carried out by the National Guard and the Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigative Body, although state and municipal police forces also conduct some counternarcotics operations. The Venezuelan Coast Guard, which is under the authority of the Navy, has a counternarcotics mission both at sea and in the ports. Venezuelan law enforcement lacks the equipment, training, and reach to match the resources and scope of major drug trafficking organizations. Effective prosecution of drug traffickers is hindered by corruption and a lack of judicial independence.
Bilateral counternarcotics cooperation between Venezuela and the United States is limited and continues only on a case-by-case basis. The lack of greater counternarcotics cooperation is consistent with the Venezuelan government’s decision to reduce bilateral contact with the United States. Venezuela has not signed the addendum to the 1978 Bilateral Counternarcotics Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States that was negotiated in 2005.
Cooperation could be improved through a formal re-engagement between Venezuelan and U.S. law enforcement agencies on counternarcotics issues and the signing of the outstanding Bilateral Counternarcotics MOU addendum, which would provide funds for joint counternarcotics projects and demand reduction programs. Cooperation could include counternarcotics and anti-money laundering training programs for law enforcement and other officials to build institutional capacity to fight narcotics trafficking.