Venezuela bombs airstrips in anti-drug effort

Associated Press Modified: May 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: May 31, 2012

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's military has recently bombed and destroyed 36 clandestine airstrips in the country as part of an effort to shut down air routes used by drug smugglers, a government official said Thursday.

State television broadcast footage of two explosions at one of the clandestine airstrips that sent dirt flying into 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. He said a total of 36 airstrips had been destroyed during the government's current operation, though it was unclear when it began.

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.


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