Operacion Centinela: Venezuela sends 15,000 troops to borders to combat drug trafficking


Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Henry Rangel Silva gestures during the military inauguration ceremony on January 17, 2012, in Caracas.



Venezuela is deploying some 15,000 troops to its borders to combat drug trafficking, reported CNN. The operation will send troops to the South American country's frontiers with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.

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Called Centinela (Watchdog), the operation is aimed at searching and dismantling drug labs and what Venezuelan Minister of Defense Gen. Henry Rangel Silva calls "irregular groups" that cause violence in the national territory, according to Prensa Latina. One hundred and fifty border checkpoints, which lead military intelligence and patrolling operations in their respecitve zones, remain active as part of Operacion Centinela's efforts.

Rangel also said that 2,000 of the 15,000 troops were sent to the western state of Tachira, which shares a border with Colombia, after two soldiers were murdered there on March 10, reported InSight. He said that 17 people have been arrested in connection with the murders, 14 of them Colombian and three Venezuelan. The other 13,000 soldiers will be deployed to the rest of the border checkpoints.

Rangel's announcement is notable because the United States consider him involved in the Venezuelan drug trade, according to CNN. The US added Rangel to its kingpin list in 2008, saying he provided support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A statement from the Treasury Department at the time said the Rangel "materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC" and pushed for more cooperation between his government and the leftist rebels.