The tentacles of narcotrafficking in South America have reached into all sectors of society and in some cases, have defeated entire governments that now sponsor the activity and attempt to destabilize the region, analysts interviewed by Voice of America say.
Martín Rodíl, a specialist in organized crime and narcotrafficking, says that Venezuela went from being a country with the presence of narcotrafficking groups to a “narcostate” under former President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013).
“What’s new is the role of Venezuela as a state and not as a country with criminal organizations, but as a state sponsoring them,” said Rodíl in VOA’s program Inter-American Forum.
Analysts agreed that the Venezuelan and Cuban governments sponsor cocaine trafficking to finance destabilizing operations in countries of the region and undermine the continent’s democratic institutions.
Hugo Chávez, the ghost
For Leandro Coutinho, writer and investigative journalist who specializes in transnational crime and hemispheric security, Venezuela is more than a narcostate.
“In Venezuela, the destructions come from narcotraffickers. The Venezuelan state carries out narcotrafficking,” Coutinho added.
Coutinho insists that Chávez was the main architect behind the new narcotrafficking routes, while the current regime of Nicolás Maduro continues to operate them.
“Chávez has created a very important cocaine route toward the Northern Triangle, toward Central America and Mexico. He did so jointly with Cuba, as a way to destabilize the region and affect the United States,” the expert said.
Coutinho warned that narcotrafficking causes instability and chaos, undermining the institutional foundations of democracies. “Narcotrafficking is a war weapon. That’s how Fidel [Castro] won Hugo Chávez over.”
New mix: State, narcotrafficking, invasions
Víctor Amram, retired commissioner of Venezuela’s Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigations Corps, said Chávez created what is known today as a “modern narcostate.”
“What Chávez did was to take advantage of Venezuela’s corruption, the deterioration that already existed, and then polished and improved it. Chávez was the instigator of this mix of networks: drugs, narcotrafficking, corruption, and political and military invasions,” said Amram.
The experts agreed that the fight against drugs led by the United States, is the responsibility of the entire continent.
The moral imperative, they said, is a unified fight with all countries working side by side against a common enemy: narcotrafficking.
“We need to stop saying that the United States is losing the war against narcotrafficking,” Rodíl said. “We are all losing it.”
Rodíl added that the narcotrafficking issue cannot be left to the United States alone.
“Venezuela lost the day it let someone like Hugo Chávez take office and turn the Venezuelan state into a sponsor for criminal activity, such as narcotrafficking,” he concluded.