May 26, 2016 / 4:42 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela says hits Zeta-linked drug cartel with multiton cocaine haul

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities seized 3.7 metric tons (4.08 U.S. tons) of cocaine and dismantled a drug trafficking ring linked to the bloody Mexican Zetas drug cartel this month, the country’s National Guard said on Thursday.

The operation began when a truck transporting 154 sacks of 30 kg (66 pounds) of cocaine hydrochloride each was stopped in Tachira, near Venezuela’s border with Colombia, on May 14.

That incident led to the discovery of the multiton deposit of cocaine where the group was preparing to export drugs, presumably to Central America. Authorities arrested 10 people in a gang they believe is linked to the Zetas, who in recent years set off the most violent phase in Mexico’s drug war.

“We achieved a significant dismantling of an international network that sought to use our territory for international drug trafficking,” said Nestor Reverol, the commander of the country’s National Guard.

Venezuela’s National Guard is itself accused of involvement in drug trafficking by the country’s opposition and U.S. prosecutors. Authorities have denied this, calling it part of a plot to overthrow the leftist government.

An indictment containing drug trafficking charges against Reverol himself, who used to head Venezuela's anti-drugs agency, is pending in a New York federal court, according to sources. (goo.gl/bmJn1h)

Security analysts say Venezuela has become an export platform of cocaine to Europe and the United States.

Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and W Simon

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