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Venezuela Reports Significant Increase in Drug-Related Arrests

National Guard officers escort Colombia's suspected drug trafficker Jaime Alberto Marin, center, aka "Beto Marin", allegedly the boss of the Norte del Valle cartel, before being extradited to the US, at the Simon Bolivar airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela, 2

Venezuela says it has detained about 40 percent more people for drug-related crimes this year, compared to 2009.

The National Drug Enforcement Agency said Monday authorities had arrested 12,376 people as of mid-December, including 371 foreigners. It said just over 8,700 had been arrested by last December.

The AVN state news agency says "achievements of the security forces in action" against drug trafficking show the country's contributions in the fight against the "global scourge."

The agency also says Venezuela's drug seizures increased after it ended relations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2005.

U.S. officials have strongly criticized Venezuela's anti-drug efforts, saying the government of President Hugo Chavez has not done enough to stem the flow of cocaine.

Chavez has said he is doing everything possible to fight drug trafficking, and has blamed his country's drug problem on a high cocaine demand among Americans.

Drug traffickers, mainly in Colombia, have been using Venezuela as a route to smuggle cocaine into the U.S., Europe and other countries.

Separately, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has praised Venezuela for its help in capturing a top Colombian rebel.

Santos said Monday suspected National Liberation Army commander Nilson Teran Ferreira had been detained in Venezuela.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.