BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuelan police on Tuesday captured Colombia’s most wanted fugitive, the notorious Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, who is suspected of smuggling 100 tons of cocaine in recent years to U.S. and European markets.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos went on national television Tuesday night to announce the capture of Barrera in the western Venezuelan city of San Cristobal. Colombian authorities had posted a $2.5-million reward for information leading to his arrest.
“I want to thank the Venezuelan government, President Hugo Chavez and his anti-drug team for this great collaboration in this significant capture,” Santos said. “Also helping us was the British intelligence unit MI-6, and U.S. agencies including the CIA.”
Barrera, 43, was indicted in 2010 by a U.S. court in Manhattan on drug-trafficking charges after having previously been tagged as a drug kingpin by the Treasury Department.
Jay Bergman, Andean chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Bogota, said Barrera’s relative longevity as a capo resulted from his ability to do business with a broad range of competing trafficking organizations, including the largest Colombian insurgent group, the FARC.
“ ‘Loco’ Barrera was an outlier, outlasting by years the 18-month shelf life of other Colombian kingpins,” Bergman said. “But the Colombian police were unrelenting and stayed the course, working with numerous partner nations.”
Among Barrera’s alleged business associates was infamous FARC commander Tomas Medina Caracas, as well as the murderous drug trafficker Pedro Oliverio Guerrero, alias El Cuchillo, or the Knife, who was found dead in 2010.
Drugs allegedly being shipped by Barrera have been the target of huge seizures in recent years, according to U.S. and Colombian authorities, including a 10.5-ton shipment of cocaine discovered in Barranquilla in October 2008.
Kraul is a special correspondent.