BOGOTÁ, Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos’ fight against narco-trafficking and terrorism scored three major victories this week when law enforcement agents arrested an alleged high-ranking member of a gang as well as two suspected members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Here’s a look at who was taken into custody:
• Hilber Nover Urdinola Perea, an alleged high-ranking leader of the Los Machos gang, was arrested on murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and narcotics trafficking charges in the southwestern department of Cauca on April 9, officials said. Authorities had offered a reward of about US$1 million for information leading to his arrest. Perea, who goes by the nickname “Don H,” is the nephew of drug kingpin Ivan Urdinola, who died of a heart attack while in prison in 2002.
• Néstor Ramírez Muñoz, the alleged leader of the FARC’s 22nd Front, was arrested by police in Villavicencio, the capital of the department of Meta, on April 10. Ramírez, 47, was apprehended while receiving medical treatment in the city. Ramírez, who goes by the alias “Géner Lara Muñoz,” allegedly joined the FARC when he was 16, officials said. His alleged girlfriend, Paola Andrea Arévalo (Judith), also was arrested during the operation.
• Pablo Emilio Rodríguez, a suspected FARC member who was in charge of the organization’s finances, was apprehended by police during a raid in Bogotá on April 10.
The FARC is the largest terrorist organization in the Andean nation and has been fighting the state since the 1960s. But FARC membership has dwindled in the past decade, largely because former President Álvaro Uribe and his successor, Santos, have made dismantling the organization a top priority.
Honduras: Army to team with police in narcotics fight
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The army will support the police for the first time in an effort to improve the country’s fight against narco-trafficking and organized crime.
“We trained members of the naval and air forces to tackle drug trafficking,” Minister of Defense Marlon Pascua told the Honduran daily La Tribuna.
Pascua said narco-traffickers have “taken advantage of the geographic location of Honduras to bring drugs in,” according to the Mexican daily Provincia.
“There is much to be done in the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, but results will be seen soon,” Pascua said, acknowledging the government “does not have the necessary financial resources to address both scourges.”
Ecuador: Nine tons of narcotics seized in first quarter of 2011
QUITO, Ecuador – Law enforcement agents seized nine tons of narcotics during the first quarter of 2011, Interior Minister Alfredo Vera said.
The seizures “show the great effort made by the National Police through the specialized drug unit to fight drug trafficking in Ecuador as no other country in the region has done,” Vera said in a statement.
Ecuador seized 18 tons all of last year and confiscated a record 68 tons in 2009.
Vera estimated the street value of the narcotics seized from 2009 and 2011 at US$360 million. The majority of the narcotics were destined for the United States via Mexico or Central America, according to the Ecuadoran website Vistazo.com.
Argentina: More than 9,000 pounds of marijuana seized
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Counter-narcotics agents confiscated more than 9,000 pounds of marijuana in one operation and arrested two suspects in connection with the confiscation of 79 pounds in another raid, according to the coast guard.
The first raid, which netted 4,135 kilograms (9,097 pounds), occurred just before midnight in the municipality of Puerto Rico on April 8, according to the Argentine daily El Liberal. Officials said the marijuana had a street value of US$4.2 million.
The second confiscation occurred in the town of Montecarlo. Two men were taken into custody after authorities found approximately 36 kilograms (79 pounds) of marijuana in their car during a traffic stop.
The men, whose identities were not released by police, were taken to the nearby town of Eldorado in the province of Misiones to face narcotics trafficking charges, according to El Liberal.
Argentina: Police seize guns, narcotics in raid
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentine police seized 54 guns, 1,000 doses of cocaine and three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of marijuana during recent raids in the San Fernando district of the nation’s capital, officials said on April 8.
The raids led to numerous arrests, including the apprehension of Guido Zappia, who was allegedly caught in possession of nine kilograms (19.8 pounds) of cocaine. Zappia has been charged with narcotics trafficking, according to the Argentine daily El Comercial.
Colombia: Authorities seize 803 kilograms of cocaine
CARTAGENA, Colombia – Police officers and navy troops apprehended one suspect in connection with the seizure of 803 kilograms (1,766 pounds) of cocaine on a farm in the town of Pasacaballos in the coastal city of Cartagena, officials said on April 7.
The narcotics were expected to be shipped to Central America, where they would have been smuggled into the United States, officials said.
The suspect was turned over to prosecutors, who will charge him with narcotics trafficking. The Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation to determine who also may have owned the cocaine, which has been destroyed by authorities, according to the Colombian website El Universal.com.