Daniel “El Loco” Barrera is said to be the last of Colombia’s major drug kingpins and is the third Colombian drug lord to have been caught in Venezuela in the last 12 months. He was wanted by both the Colombian authorities and the international organization, Interpol.
In a statement released by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on Tuesday evening, the government affirmed that the capture was a demonstration of its “unbreakable commitment to the fight against narco-trafficking”.
The arrest comes just after the release of a document by the Obama administration last week which criticized the Venezuelan government for having failed to sufficiently tackle the drugs trade.
“This is the most important blow that we have given to criminal organizations dedicated to the illegal trafficking of drugs in Venezuela in our history”, said Venezuelan Minister of Justice and Domestic Affairs, Tareck El Aissami, on Tuesday night.
The minister explained that Venezuelan authorities had deployed 14 criminal investigation teams in the capital district and throughout another 3 states after they received information on Barerra’s movements from Colombian officials on August 6. Barrera was finally caught after he used a phone box being monitored by authorities.
“This man carried out many calls via third parties, our operations were carried out continuously and rigorously for 45 days, but on August 28 one of the intelligence teams involved in the operation managed to get the coordinates of “Loco Barrera”, explained Aissami.
The arrest has made international headlines due to the high profile nature of Barerra, whose drug empire is alleged to have channelled over 900 tons of cocaine through Mexico to both Europe and the US. Both Colombia and the US have offered rewards for information on the kingpin’s whereabouts amounting to almost $8 million.
Throughout his 20-year career, Barrera is said to have made deals with both sides of the Colombian armed conflict, including the country’s rightwing narco-paramilitaries and even the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Speaking on the capture from Bogota, Colombian President Manuel Santos described Barerra as “perhaps the most wanted kingpin in recent times”. He also thanked the Venezuelan government for their cooperation.
“I want to thank the Venezuelan government, President (Hugo) Chavez and his team, for this great collaboration that has produced this capture”, Santos said. “The last of the great capos has fallen”.
The New York Times reported that Barrera’s capture was the result of an international effort between Venezuelan, Colombian, British and US officials, and that the head of Colombia’s national police, General Jose Leon Riano, was in Washington at the time of Barrera’s arrest.
Speaking to the press from the US, the General confirmed that Barrera had not resisted arrest when he was detained alone in a telephone box in San Cristobal. The drug boss has since been transferred to Caracas where he will be questioned and is eventually expected to be deported to Colombia.
Earlier in June, Venezuelan authorities captured Diego Perez Henao, aka Diego Rastrojo, a drug baron heavily linked to Colombia’s paramilitary organizations. Another Colombian drugs kingpin, Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, known as el “Valenciano” was captured in November last year.
Henao was extradited to Colombia just a few weeks after his arrest while Bonilla was deported directly to the US.