The Venezuelan military downed two drug-smuggling aircraft in a 24-hour period, the head of the armed forces Strategic Operational Command said Monday.

"The first neutralization, according to the terminology established by law, occurred on day 19 (of October) at 11:21 p.m. local time when the intruder entered (national airspace), and the same procedure was used against another that entered today before dawn," Gen. Vladimir Padrino told state television.

Both of the aircraft that were shot down had taken off from Central America, "apparently coming from Guatemala," he said.

So far this year, 13 other aircraft involved in the drug trade "were immobilized" (attacked on land), while the two in the last 24 hours were "rendered useless" when they flew over Puerto Ayacucho, capital of the southern state of Amazonas on the Colombian border, Padrino said.

In both cases, the crews "ignored" orders to land under surveillance and made it necessary to take armed action, which was ordered "once all methods of persuasion were exhausted," he said.

A third light plane was previously intercepted Saturday morning over the southwestern state of Apure, "changed route and landed at a previously unknown secret airfield," where the crews of the fighter planes "proceeded to immobilize it," the general said.

The Law of Aerial Interception which enables the shooting down of airplanes declared hostile was authorized during the last few weeks.

On Oct. 2 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said: "Let it be known to international drug traffickers that, starting today, any plane entering Venezuela will be ordered to land in peace, and if it does not, it will be shot down."

Venezuela is not a drug-producing nation, but neighboring Colombia is one of the world's leading sources of cocaine. EFE