Norte del Valle Cartel

Colombia: kingpin named in Trujillo Massacre

The Fiscalía, Colombia's public prosecutor, on Dec. 9 formally charged a notorious drug kingpin for masterminding several massacres between 1988 and 1994 in which hundreds of people were killed. The crimes, dubbed the Massacre of Trujillo after the town where they were committed in Valle del Cauca department, resulted in the deaths of up to 342 people. Among the victims were unionists, alleged guerrilla supporters, and a priest. Some of the victims were tortured and dismembered as a warning to rebel groups FARC and ELN, and their sympathizers. Diego Montoya AKA "Don Diego" is accused of conspiring with members of the army, police, regional politicians and paramilitary groups aligned to the infamous Cali Cartel. Several members of the security forces have also been charged for their alleged role in the killings.

Sinaloa Cartel kingpin nabbed in Colombia

Colombian National Police on April 17 announced the arrest in Cali of Cesar Demar Vernaza AKA "El Empresario"—accused boss of Ecuadoran narco-gang Los Templados and purported top South American operative of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. In February, he had escaped from a maximum-security prison in Guayaquil, known as "La Roca" or "The Rock," where he was serving a 25-year sentence for homicide. He allegedly came to Cali to establish contact with regional narco bosses and rebuild his operations along Colombia's Pacific coast. Arrested with him was an associate named only as "La Bestia" (the Beast) who was also among the 16 convicts sprung from La Roca in the February jailbreak. La Bestia attempted to resist arrest, taking the residents in his building hostage and threatening to blow up a gas tank. Authorities negotiated him down and he ultimately surrendered. (Colombia Reports, April 17)

'El Loco' Barrera, Colombia's most wanted, busted in Venezuela

Authorities from four countries cooperated in a months-long operation that led to the arrest Sept. 18 of Daniel Barrera AKA "El Loco"—dubbed the "last of the great capos" by Colombia's President Manuel Santos—on a street in San Cristóbal, a town in Venezuela's western Táchira state. Barrera was apprehended while making a call from a phone booth, allegedly after one of his relatives had given up his location. The arrest followed four months of cooperation between Colombia's National Police, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the UK's MI6 and Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office (ONA). According to Colombia's defense minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, the kingpin had been in Venezuela for the past eight months and was running his business while moving between several towns near the Colombian border.

Bolivia: coca production down, cocaine production up?

The US government has determined that Bolivia now has fewer coca plantations but it is producing more cocaine because traffickers are using a more "efficient" process known as the "Colombian method," according to an interview with a diplomat in La Paz daily Pagina Siete. Said John Creamer, outgoing charge d'affaires at the US diplomatic mission in La Paz: "That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine." Creamer said that using the new process, producers "can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves." He also warned of the "resowing" of eradicated coca fields. The Bolivian government boasts that it reduced coca leaf production for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011, but according to UN figures overall coca production increased from 25,400 hectares in 2006 when Evo Morales took power to 31,000 hectares in 2010 (the last year for which the UN has data). Bolivian law allows the legal cultivation of just 12,000 hectares of coca for traditional purposes.

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