The most wanted drug trafficker in Colombia, Daniel Rendón Herrera, alias "Don Mario," was captured today in a rural area of Urabá, a northern region of the country in which he established a major drug smuggling route, imposed his law, and terrorized the local population for several years.
"Don Mario," a feared paramilitary who earned over two million dollars a month from the sale of drugs - the same amount of reward offered by the government of President Álvaro Uribe for his capture - was responsible for 3,000 killings in the past 18 months, said National Police Director Óscar Naranjo.
He was arrested after a police pursuit lasting eight days, and in his final five hours of freedom he was under siege by 300 police commandos mobilized for the raid.
"He was surrounded, literally like a dog, eating rice with his hands, which was all that he had left," said the head of the Judicial Police Directorate (Dijin), Colonel César Augusto Pinzón, one of the coordinators of this operation.
The mafia chief, aged 45, was captured in the countryside area of Manuel Cuello, belonging to the town of Necoclí, located in the Caribbean region of Uraba, where in 2006 he created an armed group with more than 1,000 paramilitary troops to control drug trafficking.
From Rio de Janeiro President Uribe, who made an official visit to Brazil today, called the event "good news" and was pleased that "after long months of patient persecution, one of those recidivist ex-paramilitaries, one of those drug trafficking criminals most feared in the world (...)” had been captured.
In this way, the Colombian police terminated an operation started nine months ago, during which about fifty paramilitaries associated with him were captured, and operating assets valued in more than $100 million were seized.
"He was virtually like a dog; he had been cowering under a palm tree for two days," said Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, to whom the prisoner was "a very valuable target."
Santos made these statements to the press after "Don Mario" was moved from Urabá to Bogotá, where he was immediately taken to the judiciary police after being seen for the first time since he had escaped from prison three years ago.
"This individual had become a coordinator of criminal gangs from the Chocó to Guajira (across the northern part of the country from west to east), and in the process he encouraged a war and a number of murders that the country is aware of," Santos said.
According to the minister, there were "more than 3,000 homicides committed during the process of controlling territory for drug trafficking and committing illegal acts."
"Don Mario was Urabá’s controller, but also in his struggle to control territory" he was the "cause of homicides in cities such as Medellín; that is why this capture is of special importance to the safety of Colombians," added the Minister of Defense.
Santos took the opportunity to ask other drug kingpins to surrender, especially Oliveiro Pedro Guerrero, alias "Cuchillo," leader of the group operating in the eastern plains and jungles of Colombia, now considered the next target of the authorities.
"This means that there is no place in Colombia or in the world where these drug lords can hide, no matter how powerful they may be," Santos said, before congratulating the police for the operation.
"I want to say that my problem is inherited," were the only words that "Don Mario" said to the journalists who had awaited his arrival in Bogotá.