Guatemalan security forces have launched a wide-ranging operation targeting poppy farms in San Marcos, a northwestern province on the border with Mexico, Government Minister Mauricio Lopez said.

The four-day operation, which started on Monday, is aimed at eradicating plantations of poppies, which yield the raw material used to produce heroin, the minister said.

Security forces members are going after plantations in the cities of Sinibal, Tajumulco and Ixchiguan, Lopez told reporters.

San Marcos is one of Guatemala's poppy-growing centers, where opium paste is extracted.

The opium paste is taken to neighboring Mexico to be processed into heroin, which is later smuggled into the United States.

This is the second large operation launched this year against illegal plantations, Lopez said.

An April 15-18 operation resulted in the seizure of poppy plants and marijuana worth 986.48 million quetzales ($126.47 million).

Some 600 police officers, soldiers and prosecutor's office personnel are taking part in this week's operation, the minister said. EFE