CARACAS, Venezuela — Suspected drug flights from Venezuela to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola rose 44 percent over the first three months of 2008, U.S. officials say, a surge in activity that comes as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has expressed a willingness to resume antidrug cooperation with Washington.
Despite the possible rapprochement with Chavez three years after the leftist leader suspended antidrug ties, U.S. counter-narcotics officials in Venezuela and the Caribbean say they see no sign of cooperation or reduced traffic.
"Many people here want to cooperate, but this being an autocracy, no one is going to reach out until the big guy does something," a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We're not seeing anything on the narco side except words."
The figures of suspected drug flights were provided by U.S. counter-narcotics officials who based them on the tracking of unauthorized air traffic from the Venezuelan-Colombian border area to Hispaniola, which is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Chavez ended all cooperation by Venezuelan antidrug police with U.S. agents based in Venezuela in August 2005. Since then, he has slowly winnowed the presence of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration there from 10 agents to two by refusing to renew work visas.