Colombia's 'Last' Drug Boss Captured In Venezuela

on September 19 2012 1:08 PM
Barrera
Venezuelan ministry handout shows Daniel Barrera, one of Colombia's most wanted drug traffickers, after his capture in San Cristobal, Venezuela. REUTERS

A man described by Colombian President Juan Manuela Santos as the country’s last prominent drug lord has been captured in Venezuela.

Venezuelan authorities arrested Daniel “Loco” Barrera in the city of San Cristobal, located roughly 15 miles from the Colombian border, Santos announced during a press conference Tuesday evening.

“Crazy Barrera has been perhaps the most wanted kingpin in recent times," Santos said, Reuters reported.

"He has dedicated 20 years to doing bad things to Colombia and the world, all types of crime, perverse alliances with paramilitaries, with the FARC [rebel group]."

“The last of the great capos has fallen,” he added, according to the Associated Press.

The operation involved months of cooperation between Colombia’s national police, Venezuelan anti-narcotics forces and U.S. and British intelligence agencies, though Santos did not provide any further details.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry issued a statement, confirming it was involved in the operation and claiming it carried out the arrest at the request of the Colombian and U.S. governments without mentioning any participation from other parties.

“Venezuela gives a new demonstration of its indomitable will in the fight against drug trafficking," the foreign ministry said, AP reported.

Barrera, 50, was one of Colombia’s most wanted criminals and responsible for trafficking 10 tons of cocaine per month into the hands of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization, the Sinaloa cartel, according to Reuters.

Colombia remains at the global center of cocaine production, along with Peru and Bolivia. Much of the drug is delivered to Mexican cartels that then traffic the drug into the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Cocaine production has dropped off significantly in Colombia in recent years, decreasing 25 percent in 2011 from the previous year and by more than 70 percent since 2011, according to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“These reductions can be traced to a variety of factors that resulted from the strengthened U.S.-Colombia partnership forged through Plan Colombia,” read a White House statement from July.

“These included strengthened democratic institutions, greater presence by the government of Colombia throughout its territory, focused and persistent eradication, law enforcement efforts targeting drug trafficking organizations, improvements in the judicial system, alternative development and increased foreign investment as a result of a significantly improved security environment.”

Barrera’s arrest comes after the recent capture in Venezuela of two other alleged drug trafficking bosses from Colombia.

Diego Perez Henao, 41, who had a $5 million bounty on his head in the U.S. for cocaine trafficking, was arrested by Venezuelan authorities on June 3 and sent back to Colombia for prosecution, AP reported.

Another suspected boss, Maximilian Bonilla Orozco, 39, was arrested last November and extradited to the U.S., the AP reported.

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