TIRAYA, Venezuela (AP) — The armed forces of Venezuela announced Monday what they characerized as the largest marijuana bust of the last 10 years in the South American country.
Members of the armed forces on Saturday intercepted a vessel carrying more than 3.1 US tons (2.8 metric tons) of marijuana, almost 18 pounds (8 kg) of cocaine and extra outboard boat motors off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, said Gen. Domingo Hernández, general commander of the Operational Strategic Command of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces. He added that the vessel had departed Colombia and was en route to the island of Martinique.
Twelve men traveling on the boat were arrested. Hernández said all are Venezuelans and were working for the Colombia-based Cartel of the Guajira.
Nearly 6,293 pounds (2,857 kilos) of marijuana were seized from the boat, which lacked identification and had seven extra motors as well as 33 large storage containers with fuel and a satellite phone.
The arrests and seizure were part of special operations of the armed forces across Venezuela’s border. Soldiers in the area have also seized makeshift buildings that store fuel for airplanes used by drug traffickers who land in nearby illegal runways.
“Since 2012, we saw, this is the most important stash of marijuana, and also, since 2012, we have disabled 305 airplanes, 27 (of them) this year with a lot of intelligence and prevention against micro trafficking and macro trafficking because this is another exponential sum as well,” Hernández said.
Hernández and his team on Monday showed reporters the drugs, fuel tanks and boat at a beachside campsite in the community of Tiraya set up for the area’s special operation. Two large helicopters, military vehicles, tents and dozens of armed soldiers were also at the site.
Hernández said more that 40.2 US tons (36.5 metric tons) of illegal drugs have been seized so far this year in Venezuela. That's up 29.2% compared to the same period last year.