Agents at Mexico City Airport Seize 585 Kilograms of Cocaine

Federal agents searching the cargo hold of a flight from Venezuela on Monday discovered at least 585 kilograms (1,290 pounds) of cocaine tucked inside 13 cardboard boxes - one of the largest cocaine seizures in the history of the Mexican capital's airport.

Dogs trained to smell drugs led authorities to the discovery aboard Mexicana Airlines Flight 374, which landed at Benito Juarez International Airport from Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, according to a federal police spokesman.

A statement from the federal attorney general's office said that 585 kilograms of cocaine had been divided carefully into 585 rectangular, plastic packets and stuffed inside the boxes, which had been sealed with tape bearing the airline's logo.

The federal police spokesman said the seizure was 2005's largest and local media said it could turn out to be the biggest in the airport's history.

Earlier this month, Mexico announced a major upswing in the amount of heroin arriving aboard flights from Caracas. The announcement came Nov. 14, at the height of a diplomatic spat between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, that prompted both countries to withdraw their ambassadors.

Venezuelan Interior Secretary Jesse Chacon responded last week to the Mexican heroin announcement, saying this country should focus more on anti-drug efforts in its own territory.

Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in August, accusing its agents of spying. A month later, Washington said Venezuela had failed to effectively fight drug trafficking and removed the country from a list of cooperating nations.

Venezuela serves as a corridor for illegal drugs, mostly cocaine from neighboring Colombia, destined for the United States and Europe. Drug officials in that country estimate that 150 metric tons (165 tons) of cocaine pass through it annually - roughly a fourth of all the cocaine leaving Colombia.

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