CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's National Guard destroyed an elaborate network of clandestine cocaine-processing laboratories along the country's border with Colombia on Tuesday as part of its anti-drug efforts.
National Guard troops armed with assault rifles secured the area in the western state of Zulia before explosives were used to demolish the labs located along the porous 1,400-mile border that Venezuela shares with Colombia, the world's largest cocaine producer.
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told the state-run Bolivarian News Agency a day before the operation that troops seized 925 lbs. of cocaine and coca paste, along with chemicals used to produce cocaine, after discovering the labs.
Journalists were offered a rare look at the labs on Tuesday.
U.S. officials say Venezuela is not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, through its territory.
But President Hugo Chavez says his government is doing everything it can to crack down on drug trafficking along the border.
The socialist leader has taken issue with a U.S. State Department report issued last month that criticized his government for refusing to cooperate with U.S. anti-drug efforts. The report said that drug trafficking in Venezuela had increased fivefold since 2002.
Venezuela's cooperation with the U.S. on counter-drug efforts ended in 2005, when Chavez suspended cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing its agents of espionage.
Two DEA agents remain in Venezuela, but U.S. officials say their work has been severely restricted.