Drugs dangers mount

Guyana Chronicle
August 25, 2000

THE size of the cocaine hauls in Venezuela in the border region with Guyana indicates that the trade is very much alive and, of direct concern to authorities here, that it is becoming a bigger headache.

Venezuelan officials Wednesday unearthed another 2.5 tonnes of cocaine, in a raid on an isolated farm, bringing the total haul in a weeklong operation to nearly 10 tonnes, worth more than US$800 million on the streets of Europe, officials said yesterday.

National Guard officials in Venezuela said the new haul was the third in a series of drug busts that have seen about 20 people arrested from a ring dedicated to smuggling Colombian cocaine to Europe through Venezuela's sparsely populated northeastern seaboard.

The latest seizure was pulled Wednesday from two camouflaged pits, surrounded by crocodile-infested lagoons and tropical rain forest, on a large cattle farm nine miles from the small town of Upata in southeastern Bolivar state, officials said.

The significance of the finds for Guyana is that these were from areas in the border region and there is no doubt that there are links here.

Venezuela has become a major cocaine trafficking route between Colombia, the world's top producer, and markets in the United States and Europe.

And the signs are increasing here that Guyana is a key link in the smuggling chain.

Anti-narcotics officials here have scored some major successes, including intercepting large shipments destined for Europe on rice boats and closing in on some key drugs personnel.

But if a major international trafficking route is getting closer and closer to Guyana territory as the pressure increases elsewhere, the government has to take this into consideration.

Death, destruction and mayhem go hand in hand with the drugs trade and there has already been too much suffering wrought by the drugs barons on the small population, especially the vulnerable young, of this country.

A top official recently noted that students at some leading secondary schools in Georgetown were using drugs and said that the nefarious trade had spread to all the regions of the country.

And there can be no comfort in the news out of Venezuela that so much cocaine is being unearthed in jungle territory so close to Guyana.

The raids in Venezuela capped an eight-month investigation, dubbed Orinoco 2000, that was financed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and also involved anti-narcotics agents from Britain, Colombia, France, Greece, Italy and Panama.

From the dramatic cocaine air drops at Loo Lands in the Upper Demerara River in the early 1990s to the discovery of caches couriers regularly try to ship through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at Timehri, the signs are that Guyana is already an established transshipment point in the route to North America and Europe.

Officials here readily acknowledged this but their job of battling the drugs barons is going to become tougher as the rings seek new routes.

The fight against drugs here has therefore to be intensified and it is time for communities to become more involved.

Their safety is at stake.

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