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Agent Dick Ballard (*) has asked us to put in a positive word about his peacock bass fishing trip into the Casiquiare River in Venezuela. He says our previous reports about the danger of traveling into the Venezuela/Colombia border region around Puerto Ayacucho have unnecessarily scared would be clients of his who merely transit this area on their way farther south. Ballard says his clients fly into Puerto Ayacucho on a scheduled commercial flight, where they are met by a transfer agent who puts them directly on a charter flight to the Casiquiare region. On the way out, this process is repeated, he says. His note stresses that National Guard troops are present at every stop, and even along the Casiquiare River itself. Ballard says he’s had no security problems of any sort on this trip and it’s unfair and wrong to scare people away with generalized security warnings.

We pass all this along as sent to us by Ballard. We concede that we’ve heard no reports of problems in the Casiquiare Region itself and agree that it is certainly safer to transit Puerto Ayacucho by connecting planes than it is to hang around there for very long or, worse still, drive away from there down a jungle road. Furthermore, we know Ballard to be an imminently responsible man who would not think of jeopardizing clients’ lives to make a few bucks. All of that moves us to be "security neutral" about his Casiquiare trip. What keeps us from moving to the bullish camp is general jitteriness about the whole region and the fact that there are National Guardsmen all over the place. With apologies to all commercial interests involved, we feel moved to point out that the presence of those soldiers, far from making us feel secure, suggests to us there is reason for them being there.

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