Colombian Police Arrest Former Cali Cartel Boss

By Dialogo
September 20, 2010

In response to an extradition request by the United States, on September 17 Colombian police arrested alleged drug-trafficker Phanor Arizabaleta Arzayús, a former member of the Cali cartel led by brothers Gilberto and Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela.

Director of Colombian National Police, General Oscar Naranjo, said that Arizabaleta’s arrest took place on a central avenue in the city of Cali, the capital of the department of El Valle del Cauca, 250 kilometers southwest of Bogotá.

The officer affirmed that the police made the arrest despite there being no pending charges against Arizabaleta in Colombia, because the U.S. accuses him of narco-trafficking. An extradition request was issued for him by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“He was convicted in Colombia and served his sentence, a good part of it under house arrest due to health problems linked to cardiac deficiencies,” Naranjo told reporters.

“What we know is that American law enforcement has made an urgent request for him,” he specified.

Arizabaleta turned himself in to Colombian law enforcement in 1995, amid a government offensive against the Cali cartel, an organization that at its height controlled around 80 percent of the world cocaine market.

He was sentenced in Colombian courts to twenty-eight years in prison, but he succeeded in getting his sentence reduced for good behavior and was even allowed to serve time under house arrest.

During the offensive in which Arizabaleta turned himself in, brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela were arrested. They are now imprisoned in the United States after completing their sentences in Colombia and being extradited by Bogotá.

Despite the support of the United States, which has provided more than five billion dollars in military aid and programs dedicated to eradicating illegal coca plantings since 2000, Colombia continues to be the world’s leading producer of cocaine, producing around four hundred tons a year.

Even though the Cali cartel was dismantled with the arrest and surrender of its chief leaders, it was subsequently replaced by the El Norte del Valle cartel.
Currently, other drug-trafficking cartels and a leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), control the drug trade in this South American country, according to the government.