Venezuela bombs airstrips in anti-drug effort

Venezuela's military bombed 36 clandestine airstrips in the South American country's southern plains during May as part of an effort to shut down air routes used by drug smugglers, a top government official said Thursday.

State television broadcast footage of two explosions at clandestine airstrips that sent dirt flying through the air.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami also said drug smuggling flights into Venezuelan airspace had been reduced 50 percent since the beginning of the year as the government of President Hugo Chavez seeks to combat trafficking.

"We are meeting our obligation of fighting and confronting these criminal organizations like never before," El Aissami said on state television from the southern state of Apure, which borders Colombia, the world's biggest producer of cocaine.

El Aissami did not specify how many drug flights had been detected so far this year.

U.S. counter-drug officials have called Venezuela a key conduit for Colombian cocaine.

El Aissami said that two suspected drug smugglers wanted in neighboring Colombia and the United States, Miguel Camacho and Luis Alberto Ramirez, would soon be turned over to Colombian authorities following their May 16 arrest in Venezuela.