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Venezuela says it seized 5.5 tons of cocaine

cocaine generic AP

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's top security official says authorities have seized more than 5.5 tons of cocaine.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami calls the drug seizure in eastern Venezuela one of the country's hardest blows to drug traffickers in recent years.

A Saturday message on El Aissami's Twitter site says the seizure is "one of the most significant drug confiscations" in recent years. The message does not provide details.

Venezuela is a transshipment point for Colombian cocaine destined for the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.

Officials in Washington have strongly criticized Venezuela's anti-drug efforts. But President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela is seizing more drugs than ever before.

Chavez, in turn, has often criticized America's war on drugs along with a few other South America leaders, like Peru's president Ollanta Humala. Those two are part of the anti-American Alba bloc of nations, and they frequently extol the virtues of the coca leaf, Bloomberg News reports.

A study by the United Nations shows that Peru now rivals Colombia as the world's largest producer of cocaine after land dedicated to illegal coca production rose 2.2 percent to 61,200 hectares in 2010, Bloomberg reports. Colombia has long been a close ally with America in the war on drugs, and is not a member of the Alba bloc.