Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Murder of Venezuelan Diplomat in Kenya Linked to Drug Trafficking


On Monday, Kenyan authorities charged senior Venezuelan diplomat Dwight Sagaray with the murder of interim Venezuelan ambassador Olga Fonseca Gimenez. Fonseca’s body was found dead by strangulation in her official residence in Nairobi on July 27th, and a Kenyan investigator told Reuters last week that the motive behind the killing was “jostling for positions in the embassy.”  Fonseca had been at the post for less than two weeks before her death, having taken over from the previous ambassador, who left amid accusations of sexual harassment. Sagaray denies the charges against him.

As if this story didn’t have enough diplomatic intrigue, the Kenyan Star reported yesterday that police in the African nation believe Fonseca’s death was linked to a drug trafficking ring run by Venezuelan diplomats. According to the Star, Venezuelan embassy officials had been using diplomatic pouches -- which are exempt from customs inspection under international law -- to smuggle drugs into Kenya.  

Fonseca allegedly put a stop to this upon taking office, a decision which “reportedly caused friction in the embassy and may have contributed to her murder.” The paper claims that its police sources asked to remain anonymous for fear of sparking a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

The charge couldn’t come at a worse time for Venezuela. Despite repeated denials by the Chavez government, the country has earned a reputation as a haven for drug traffickers in recent years, an allegation which has been backed by former judicial and military officials. The report also comes just after a recent warning from US anti-drug officials warned that Africa is emerging as a “new frontier” in the international narcotics trade. If this allegation proves true, it could deal a major blow to the international reputation of Venezuela’s government.

News Briefs

  • On the subject of drug trafficking, Adam Isacson offers a helpful analysis of US and UN coca production data in the Andes in the most recent WOLA podcast.
  • During a visit to Brazil for a routine medical checkup, Paraguay’s ousted ex-president Fernando Lugo told Sao Paolo’s O Estado that he is considering running for president in the upcoming 2013 elections, although he has received mixed opinions about the constitutionality of the move from judicial officials.
  • Argentina’s YPF and Venezuela’s PDVSA, each country’s state energy firm, have agreed to form a strategic partnership. Analyst James Bosworth points out that the move puts the two countries in conflict with the United Kingdom and Spain.
  • Hit hard by local currency depreciation, Brazilian national oil company Petrobras has reported its worst quarterly report since 1999.
  • In a development which is sure to damage Peruvian President Ollanta Humala’s push to develop the mining sector, a copper and zinc mine in the country is facing a government inquiry after a pipeline burst in the Ancash region, exposing more than 200 locals to potentially toxic chemicals.
  • In response to a recent spike in guerrilla activity in Colombia’s embattled Arauca department, the neo-paramilitary group known as the Aguilas Negras declared war on FARC and ELN rebels in the area, local newspaper Notillano reported. The group reportedly distributed pamphlets promising that “If (guerrillas) want war they will get war, if they want death they will get it. If they want blood to flow, they will have it.”
  • Tropical Storm Ernesto is set to hit Honduras, Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula later today, and US forecasters are predicting that the storm will develop into a hurricane before reaching land.
  • Reuters reports that Jamaica’s 50th anniversary independence celebration yesterday was met with “mixed reviews” of the country’s independence from Great Britain.  According to the news service, some on the island believe they would be better off as  British territory.