Soldiers blow up two Venezuelan cocaine labs

Thursday, November 10, 2005

SIERRA DE PERIJA, Venezuela -- Two cocaine processing labs went up in smoke after soldiers blew them up and yanked coca plants from the ground, tossing them into burning piles in the mountains near Venezuela's border with Colombia.

The operation came as Venezuela's military steps up a campaign to seek and destroy drug crops along a remote stretch of the border with Colombia.

Troops have destroyed 520 acres of opium poppies, coca plants and marijuana located using satellite images in the past several days, officials said as soldiers burned crops Tuesday in the Sierra de Perija mountains, about 400 miles west of Caracas.

Soldiers detained some 45 Colombians around the planted areas and deported them, Capt. Virgilio Lameda told reporters. One of the detainees had been guarding the fields and hurled a grenade that wounded a Venezuelan soldier, Brig. Gen. Gitamar Barrios Hernandez said.

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