Colombian security forces have captured that country’s alleged “czar” of the production and distribution of the synthetic designer drug known as “pink cocaine.”
Colombian National Police captured Hector Alonso Castro Franco, 38, on March 24 in the city of Pereira, authorities said. Police captured him at a shopping mall. He is also known as “Hector Largo,” a leading figure in the criminal groups Los Machos and Los Urabeños.
Before his capture, Hector Largo was the biggest distributor of synthetic drugs in Colombia, according to investigators with the Colombian National Police Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol.
Hector Largo was also allegedly the principal producer of the party drug “2C-B,” which is also known as "pink cocaine."
The dangers of ‘pink cocaine’
Pink cocaine, which is also known as “Venus” and “Nexus,” is a hallucinogenic designer drug first manufactured in Europe. Users can ingest it in powder or pill form. The effects of pink cocaine have been described by users as a cross between ecstasy and LSD.
Pink cocaine has become the drug of choice among affluent users in Colombia’s urban area, supplanting ordinary cocaine, authorities said. Pink cocaine has gained popularity despite the fact it costs up to $75 (USD) per dose, compared to $5 (USD) for a gram of ordinary cocaine.
Synthetic drugs are attractive to organized crime groups because they are easier to manufacture and transport than regular cocaine, and command much higher prices.
Hector Largo allegedly ran distribution networks for synthetic drugs in Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, and Barranquilla, according to authorities. He was allegedly setting up a distribution network for the drugs in Pereira when National Police agents captured him, according to published reports.
Hector Largo suspected of killings.
Authorities suspect Hector Largo not only produced and distributed pink cocaine, but that he also participated in multiple homicides in Valle de Cauca, where the synthetic drug manufacturing operation was based, according to press reports.
Hector Largo is affiliated with the Machos, a Colombian gang, and Los Urabenos, an international drug trafficking organization.
The Machos were once the once the armed wing of the Norte del Valle cartel, but have since been absorbed by Los Urabenos.
The synthetic drug distribution network directed by Hector Largo had previously been led by Hector Mario Urindola, who is also known as “Chicho.” He was the leader of the Machos in the Valle de Cauca.
From Chicho to Hector Largo
Hector Largo took over the distribution network after Colombian National Police agents captured Chicho in January, 2013. Chicho allegedly ran a series of clandestine drug labs in the Valle de Cacua to manufacture pink cocaine. He also set up distribution networks in each of Colombia’s major cities.
Hector Largo allegedly took over the pink cocaine production and distribution network after security forces captured Chico.
Hector Largo had been trying to capitalize on the increased demand for synthetic drugs in Colombia’s urban areas. The surge in demand is reflected by the amount of synthetic drug seizures police made in 2013.
Colombian police seized almost 185,000 doses of synthetic drugs in 2013 – more than double the number of doses seized in 2012.
Sales of pink cocaine are on the rise because the drug is cheaper to produce, said Yadira Gálvez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“Synthetic drugs are easier and cheaper to produce,” Gálvez said. “Pink cocaine has a strong place in the illicit drug market.”
Success for the Colombian National Police
Colombian security forces are working hard to combat the increase in synthetic drug production and use, the security analyst said.
“Capturing the pink cocaine czar is another success for the Colombian National Police, which is making good use of intelligence,” Gálvez said. “ It is another example of how Colombia has managed to strengthen its security apparatus.”
Colombian security forces have also made great progress in eradicating the cultivation and production of cocaine, Gálvez said.
Security forces must continue their vigilance, the security analyst said. “
Colombian authorities are continuing to fight organized crime groups,” Gálvez said. “The Colombian government will continue to strengthen its security forces in the cities.”
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.