Colombia improves fight against narcotics traffickers, gangs

By Dialogo
March 17, 2011

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

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, 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

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
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.