Interview With Venezuela's Attorney General
The Washington Post's Juan Forero interviewed Venezuelan Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez. Excerpts:
Q: Is Venezuela a major country for drug trafficking?
A: "The rhetoric against Venezuela on the drug issues should be put into context. . . . We're a transit country, without a doubt. We cannot hide that we're a transit country because we're next to Colombia, which is the big producer of illegal drugs."
Q: What's the global context?
A: "The biggest consumer countries in the world are in Europe and the United States. . . . They need to finance that consumption and they see it in the capitalist terms of supply and demand. They don't see the good or bad. For them, it's how much money do I produce, how much can I make in this business and not how do we resolve this problem. Very few people talk about it this way. People say it's the Colombians and the Bolivians, and that they distribute to the world, as if the bad guys are the Colombians and the Bolivians."
Q: Why is it so hard to stop drugs from coming into Venezuela from neighboring Colombia?
A: "It's one of the longest borders in the world. It's more than 1,000 kilometers, a frontier, with mountains, jungles, and rivers. I don't know if you know that 57 percent of the water that comes into Venezuela comes from Colombia. . . . So we're not just talking about trafficking through the air, but we're talking about trafficking that has several options."
Q: What about corruption in Venezuela?
A: "In the DISIP, which is the intelligence police, and undoubtedly in some sectors of the National Guard, there is complacency or participation in drug trafficking. And not just them, but civil officials at airports. . . . I speak of individuals, not institutions. Individuals who can exist anywhere in the world and who are enticed by money and the possibility of easy money. We're talking about big amounts, big amounts that can touch judges and touch prosecutors. I've dismissed several prosecutors who work on drug issues, possibly 23 who've been tied with these things, with things that have to do with complicity with drug trafficking."
Q: You say individuals can be corrupted, but aren't some institutions corrupt to the core?
A: "We don't have any sense that that's happened in Venezuela. There are individuals but not institutions that have been penetrated in the upper ranks."
Q: Relations between Venezuela and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are poor. Why?
A: "We never had collaboration of the DEA to go after the big fish. We found the big fish with our informants. . . . So under those circumstances we broke with the DEA three years ago because we didn't see any disposition to collaborate to capture the brains of the transnational drug trafficking organizations. . . . They only go after the Bolivians and the Colombians, those are the only guilty ones. This has never been condemned. The DEA acts like it's made in a laboratory where their purity is certified. They're used to certifying everything. That's an American concept. So they certify the police. For them, their police are pure and ours are unpure. It's not true. That depends on the character of the person."
Q: The Chavez administration has accused the DEA of doing more than fighting drugs. What else?
A: "The DEA had various roles. They had the role of helping or advising in investigations against drugs. But at the same time they were spying on our political process. . . . The DEA was not just used to spy but to finance organizations that were against President Chavez."
Q: Tell me more about corrupt judges.
A: "We're doing work to control judges and I can say that in the attorney general's office that control is 80 or 90 percent, that we know we're working with honest people who cannot be bought, not even with excessive amounts. There's an emotional and important element in this -- Chavez's message and the new historic times have beaten back the temptation of money."
Q: How many judges have been fired?
A: "I cannot tell you the exact number, but I'm pretty sure we can say it's more than 150 judges. . . . Many of them were denounced by the Public Ministry [which oversees the attorney general's office]. It was inconceivable that, for example, a judge took a decision and ruled in favor of the drug trafficker when the logic and the evidence presented showed the person was guilty."
Q: A former drug czar, Luis Correa, was dismissed, and rumors swirled that he worked with traffickers. Why was he removed?
A: "Those rumors reached us . . . there was never any hard facts that permitted us to open an investigation. I do think that the president of the republic had some of that information. . . . More for preventive reasons, than for hard facts, he opted to make the decision to replace him."
Q: There have been reports of the selling of government credentials and protection to traffickers. How serious is that?
A: "We have received information that some police officials from the judicial police and some officials of the armed forces have extended authorizations and have given protection to some narco-traffickers. For us, it's in the process of investigation. We're investigating and the process of investigation is advanced, and we've interrogated some functionaries of lower rank."
Q: You say this government has advanced against drug trafficking. How?
A: "In my tenure here, and this has never been done before, we've leveled 10,147 accusations against people for illicit drugs. . . . With these actions, we've gotten 4,274 sentences, and 86 percent of them have been favorable. . . . We're talking about 3,670 convictions."