So far this year Venezuelan authorities have dismantled 17 cocaine laboratories in the western states of Tachira and Zula, Defense Minister Tarek El Aissami said Wednesday.
In the most recent find, military personnel discovered four laboratories used to produce cocaine in Tachira on August 5. EFE reports that Colombian military uniforms were discovered at the site, indicating it may have been controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), or the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional - ELN), both known to have maintained encampments in Tachira.
Zulia borders two Colombian departments which have a long history of contraband trade (mostly involving oil) with Venezuela -- La Guajira and Cesar -- while Tachira borders Northern Santander, where the ELN and FARC maintain a strong presence. The fact that cocaine-producing laboratories continue to be found in Venezuela's border states could be one indication of the pressure that Colombian criminal groups are facing in their own territory.
As El Nacional reports, Venezuelan security forces are currently carrying out two anti-drug operations, the first dubbed "Sierra," focused on detecting illegal crop production, and the other "Centinela," focused on investigating criminal groups. These are the latest security measures to be taken along the Colombia-Venezuela border, which, according to local authorities, sees high levels of drugs, arms and human trafficking.