Colombia Arrests Brother of Cali Drug Cartel Chiefs : South America: Suspect has also been charged in U.S. Officials hope leaders will feel pressure to surrender.


Striking a blow against the world’s largest cocaine syndicate, Colombian commandos have captured the younger brother of the Cali cartel’s alleged kingpins, authorities announced Friday.

Armed with a tip from an informant, soldiers and police surrounded Jorge Eliecer Rodriguez Orejuela as he sat in a parked car Thursday night in front of a house in Cali, waiting to see a fortuneteller.

Rodriguez, 47, put up no resistance and was transferred under heavy guard to police headquarters in Bogota. Four bodyguards who accompanied him in another vehicle were also arrested.


Rodriguez is the younger brother of Cali cartel leaders Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela. His importance to the cartel’s operation was a matter of dispute, but officials and drug experts said his capture could provide inducement for his fugitive older brothers to surrender.

“The importance of this coup cannot be minimized,” said Defense Minister Fernando Botero, who said the capture was part of an investigation stretching back to November.

Coming just one day after the U.S. government criticized Colombia for its weak anti-drug efforts, Rodriguez’s arrest was a boost for Colombia’s sagging morale.

The Clinton Administration on Wednesday refused to give Colombia full certification in its annual review of drug-producing nations, recommending continued financial aid only for reasons of national security. The failure of President Ernesto Samper’s government to crack down on the Cali cartel was cited by U.S. officials as one of the biggest reasons for Colombia’s poor ranking.

But on Friday, the U.S. Embassy here was upbeat about the Rodriguez arrest, although it was careful to identify him as a “mid-level lieutenant.”

“We are delighted by the capture and congratulate the Colombian government,” a U.S. Embassy official said.



Rodriguez faces charges in Colombia alleging drug trafficking, illegal possession of firearms and the use of false identification, officials said. He was indicted in 1991 in a New York district court on charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine.

Botero said Rodriguez is among the top seven members of the Cali cartel, which controls 80% of the world cocaine market and a growing share of the heroin market. Many officials consider the cartel the world’s most powerful narcotics organization.

Officials in Bogota say Rodriguez headed a network of assassins and was responsible for many of the drug shipments that leave Colombia’s Pacific port of Buenaventura for the United States.

Colombia has been badly embarrassed by the failure of hundreds of soldiers and police to capture the two drug chiefs, who have moved about openly, giving interviews to journalists and meeting with friends in public places.

The arrest of the younger Rodriguez is the closest that authorities have come to touching a member of a family that has seemed largely untouchable.

Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez face drug trafficking charges in Colombia and the United States.


On Friday, authorities paraded Jorge Rodriguez before reporters at national police headquarters. Handcuffed and dressed in blue jeans and a light jacket, the man sat nervously before dozens of reporters, photographers and television cameras.