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New countries on U.S. drug watch list

Soldiers guard a twin engine Beechcraft abandoned after unloading on a highway in southern Belize


This week the White House has added El Salvador and Belize to its list of drug producing and transit countries for the first time, which now puts all seven Central American nations on the list.

The Obama administration also criticized two Latin American countries already on the list, Venezuela and Bolivia, for having “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to make substantial efforts” against narcotics.

Of all 22 countries on the list, the only five not in the Americas are Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma and Laos.

While Bolivia is a major cocaine exporter, Venezuela is increasingly serving as a transshipment point for drugs on the way to Central America and the United States. Both nations have tense relations with Washington.

The report said 90 percent of cocaine from the Andean region passes through Central America on its way to the US.  According to the White House statement, four metric tons of cocaine passed through El Salvador in 2009 and 10 metric tons through Belize, where activity by Mexican gang Los Zetas has now been reported.