BOGOTÁ, Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration is backing a security strategy to fight narcotics traffickers and organized crime groups in and around the city of Medellín, which has been home to an escalation in violent crimes the past few years.
Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera launched the initiative during a visit on March 13 to the municipality of Itagüí, which neighbors Medellín, the Andean nation’s second-largest city behind Bogotá.
Rivera said law enforcement officials will place greater emphasis on prosecuting those with ties to narcotics-trafficking gangs or organized crime groups. He also said that if the project has success in the Medellín area, it could be implemented nationwide.
“Based on this experience we will enforce this plan in the future in other municipalities and cities affected by crime,” he said, according to Xinhua.
Sinaloa cartel suspected of running cocaine lab in Honduras
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The Mexico-based Sinaloa cartel is suspected of operating the cocaine laboratory that was dismantled by Honduran officials in the Central American country, Security Minister Oscar Álvarez said.
The cocaine laboratory, the first of its kind found in Honduras, was discovered on March 9 in Cerro Negro, a remote region close to the country’s border with Guatemala.
Álvarez, who did not reveal the evidence that indicated the laboratory was operated by the Sinaloa cartel, said the facility had the capacity to produce 200 to 400 kilograms (440 to 880 pounds) of cocaine weekly.
Colombia: High-ranking FARC leader killed
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Olidem Romel Solarte Cerón, a high-ranking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader, died during a military operation, President Juan Manuel Santos said on March 15.
Solarte Cerón, 39, provided Mexican traffickers with cocaine and managed finances and weapons trafficking for the country’s largest guerrilla group, officials said.
“I want to tell [FARC members] once again that if they keep doing what they are doing they will fall one by one, because we are not going to let down our guard and we have many others in our sights,” Santos said at a media conference.
Solarte Cerón, who went by the alias “Oliver Solarte,” died during a gunfight with the military near the town of San Miguel, which borders Ecuador, on March 14.
Colombia, U.S. joint effort takes down suspect drug gang
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – A criminal organization suspected of trafficking heroin from Colombia to the United States has been broken up by a joint effort by the Colombian police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), officials said.
Twelve suspects, including three gang leaders who are sought for extradition by the United States, were arrested in the sweep that was held simultaneously in the Andean nation and the U.S., said Gen. César Augusto Pinzón, the director of Colombia’s drug enforcement agency, according to EFE.
Brothers Santiago and Carlos Alberto Noreña Mesa and their cousin, Carlos Julio Noreña Restrepo, are expected to appear in federal court in Florida to face narcotics charges, officials said.
Seven other suspects were taken into custody in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Ipiales, near the border with Ecuador, and two others were apprehended in the U.S. cities of New York and Miami.
Law enforcement officials also destroyed a cocaine laboratory in the town of Guarne, Colombia, and confiscated 27 kilograms (12.3 pounds) of the narcotic.
Pinzón said the organization trafficked the narcotic from Colombia into the United States on planes that departed from the airport in Medellín and arrived in Miami or New York. Narcotics also were trafficked through Ecuador.
Peru: Attack on helicopter injures 2
LIMA, Peru – A rear admiral and another military officer were injured when assailants attacked their helicopter in the coca-growing Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers (VRAE) on March 11, according to media reports.
Rear Adm. Carlos Tello Aliaga, chief of the VRAE Joint Command, was struck by shrapnel in the stomach. Air Force gunnery officer Juan Pérez also was injured during the attack.
The helicopter, which was carrying personnel on a reconnaissance mission, landed in the city of Jauja, where the men were taken to a nearby hospital, according to EFE.
The Shining Path guerrilla group’s remnants have a presence in the VRAE region, where they are allegedly led by Víctor Quispe Palomino, who is known as “Comrade José.” In the Upper Huallaga Valley, the group is led by Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who goes by the alias “Comrade Artemio.”
García has given top priority to fighting the Shining Path, which is responsible for about 70,000 deaths since the 1980s, according to a commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo.
Peru has surpassed Colombia as the world’s leading supplier of coca, the primary ingredient in cocaine. The Andean nation produced 119,000 metric tons of the leaf in 2009, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
FARC attacks military base on Colombia-Ecuador border
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attacked a Colombian military base this past weekend in the department of Putumayo, but no one was killed, officials said.
The FARC fired mortars at a base in Puerto Asís, which is near the Andean nation’s border with Ecuador, said Gen. Juan Carlos Salazar, who commands the army’s 6th Division, according to EFE.
The FARC, the state’s largest guerrilla group, is one of the region’s biggest narcotics traffickers. President Juan Manuel Santos has made fighting the FARC one of his top priorities since taking office in August 2010.
FARC guerrillas fired rounds at the base from about three kilometers (1.8 miles) away but didn’t hit any major buildings, Salazar said, according to EFE.
Law enforcement officials have increased security after one of Puerto Asís Mayor Mauro Toro’s grandsons was killed in January when FARC rebels sprayed houses owned by Toro and one of his daughters with bullets.