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Venezuela sends 15,000 troops to borders

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Venezuela will send 15,000 troops to bolster border security
  • The operation has already shown results, says the defense minister
  • Defense Minister Rangel has been labeled a kingpin by the United States

(CNN) -- Venezuela is deploying some 15,000 troops to its borders to combat drug trafficking, the country's defense minister says.

Operation Sentinel, as it is called, will send troops to the frontiers with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana, the state-run AVN news agency reported Friday.

The goal of the operation is to find and dismantle laboratories where illegal drugs are produced, and to root out traffickers, Defense Minister Gen. Henry Rangel Silva said.

"We will carry out intelligence work and patrols to detect the possible camps for processing drugs," he said, according to AVN.

The announcement by Rangel is notable because the United States considers him involved in the drug trade, too.

The United States added Rangel to its kingpin list in 2008, alleging he provided support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC.

A statement from the Treasury Department at the time said the general "materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC" and pushed for more cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the leftist rebels.

After coming to power, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ended his nation's cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, the United States has criticized Venezuela's efforts against drug trafficking, while Venezuela touts what it has achieved without the Americans' help.

Rangel said that the operation, which already has about 150 border outposts, has already shown positive results.

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