Thursday, March 12, 2009

Venezuela cited for drugs Dominica implicated

Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (left) accused of assisting narcotics trafficking from Columbia.

The U.S. State Department has accused senior Venezuelan officials, including a close aide to President Hugo Chavez, of assisting narcotics trafficking from Colombia in an annual report that describes Venezuela as a "major drug-transit country."

President Hugo Chavez adamantly denied the allegation telling the National Assembly that President Obama should "go clean up that dirt."

"The biggest support for narco-trafficking comes from the nation of the north," Mr. Chavez told lawmakers also accusing Mr. Obama of continuing the hostile policies of the Bush administration.

According to the State Department’ s 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, "Venezuela remains a major drug-transit country with high-levels of corruption and a weak judicial system. Growing illicit drug transshipments through Venezuela are enabled by Venezuela’s lack of international counter narcotics cooperation."

The report however does not accuse Mr. Chavez of direct involvement in the drug trade, but it names three senior Venezuelan officials as "Tier II Kingpins" for material assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of FARC," the main Marxist rebel movement in neighboring Colombia. The officials include Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, a top aide to Mr. Chavez, who has served as justice and interior minister.

According to the report, "Narcotics trafficking in Venezuela has increased fivefold since 2002, from 50 [metric tons] to 250 [metric tons] in 2007." The report claims that Venezuela now serves as the main outlet into the U.S. and Europe for cocaine and heroin produced in Colombia.

It details the arrest of Venezuelan traffickers in Dominica, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Lucia, and several West African countries, including Ghana and Guinea. According to the report these countries now serve as a bridge for drugs entering Europe.

The issue of Venezuelan drug traffickers in Dominica came into sharp focus in 2008 when a Venezuelan vessel was seized by the Dominican coastguard. Police in Dominica arrested eight Venezuelan men in waters just outside of Grand Bay. The boat was shadowed for several hours by the Dominica coast guard before it was boarded and the arrest effected. Over a million dollars in cash was found onboard. The men were charged with trying to enter the country illegally and for failing to declare the cash in their possession. They appeared in a local court in Roseau represented by Dominica’s ambassador to Venezuela Lennox Lawrence, and were subsequently fined and released.

Other officials named in the scathing five-page section about Venezuela include Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, who head key anti-narcotics and intelligence units.

"Counter narcotics successes in Colombia have forced traffickers to shift routes through neighboring Venezuela," says the State Department, which accuses key units of Venezuela's security services, including the Special Anti-Narcotics Units of the National Guard and the Federal Investigative Police, of being complicit in the drug trade.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has said that the report is "plagued with lies," claiming that drug seizures and arrests have increased in Venezuela during the past year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sampling in Dominica confirms geothermal reservoir

The West Indies Power (Dominica) Ltd (WIPD) has indicated that initial studies to determine the geothermal origin of gases emanating from the Sulfur Springs in Soufriere have all been positive.

The tests were conducted in December of 2008, in which a survey was done to determine if the gases and waters were of geothermal origin or just rainwater that had been heated by the underlying hot rocks. The samples were later analyzed at the University of Rochester in the United States and at the California State University, San Bernadino, USA.

The survey which was conducted by geologists, Joe LaFleur, Mike Krahmer, and Makeda Warner, along with West Indies Power (Dominica) Ltd’s field Managers Paul Toulon and Alan Toussaint focused on gases and waters from the geothermal features in the Soufriere area.

Kerry McDonald, CEO of West Indies Power (Dominica), stated: “The results of this sampling scientifically proves that there is a geothermal reservoir underlying the Soufriere area. West Indies Power (Dominica) Ltd. next step is to locate and drill sites so that it can determine the size and quality of the geothermal reservoir here in Soufriere”.

In July 2008, the government of Dominica granted a license to the Russian owned WIPD to conduct geothermal exploration and development work in the Southern part of Dominica. At the time, Gregory de Gannes, Chairman of West Indies Power Holdings BV, the parent company of WIPD observed that “the geothermal resources of Dominica will now be developed by a Caribbean company which is committed to generating reliable, low cost electricity, from a renewable resource to the people of Dominica and in a timely manner."

The company says that the surveys will be followed by geophysical work all of which will allow WIPD to pin point the sites where it should drill to confirm and evaluate the geothermal resources in the Soufriere region.