Colombian arrests crimp gangs that shipped drugs to Costa Rica

Juan Manuel Santos and Wifredo Ferrer

Anti-drug operations, mainly at the country’s northern border, confiscate large quantities of cocaine regularly. But there has been no way to determine how much of the drug gets through.

Now Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reports that a string of arrests in his country has stopped the shipment of 10 tons of drugs through Central America each month. And that is just one drug smuggling ring.

Santos was talking about the Colombian operation Vuela Final that netted five tons of cocaine, 21 airplanes and $1.5 million. In addition 35 persons wanted for extradition to the United States were detained.

Colombian sources said that the sophisticated network used secret routes through Central America and that it was linked to the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. The gang used submersible craft, aircraft and land vehicles to move the contraband. The route was managed by Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, one of Colombia’s senior drug lords, said Colombia sources.

The anti-drug operation was coordinated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in south Florida, which characterized the arrests as stemming from two distinct anti-drug operations.

That office said that 22 defendants were charged for their alleged participation in a drug trafficking organization that built and used fully submersible and semi-submersible submarines to transport cocaine from Colombia to Central America, with the ultimate destination being the United States. The law enforcement effort was called Operation Under the Sea.

This indictment, returned on May 17, charges the following individuals with numerous drug trafficking offenses: Mauner Mahecha Marcelo, 32; Luis Alexander Mahecha Marcelo, 23; Alexander Hernandez Arrubla, 29; Octavio Amezquita Marcelo, 38; Romir Gustavo Gutierrez Guerrero, 42; Jairo Trejos, 32; Jaider Fabio Gomez Aristizabal, 40; Jose Stiven Berrio Zorrilla, 26; Fernando Pineda Jimenez, 30; Marco Antonio Lopez Loaiza, 52; Victor Mario Palacio Muñoz, 37; Jesus Ernesto Garcia Prieto, 48; Juan Carlos Vasquez Pachon, 39; Roberto Gilton Valencia Pinto, 42; Albin Rodrigo Arrollo Garcia, 43; Manuel Santiago Portocarrero, 45; Jack Jimenez, 35; Oscar Augusto Gutierrez Garcia, 43; Pedro Alejandro Pinilla Castro, 32; Agustin Campos Pardo, 44; Carlos Alfonso Almanza Sanchez, 28; and Rodrigo Tercero Royet Arias, 38.

In February, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer set up a special prosecution unit to seek out what were called bandas criminales in Colombia or BACRIM.

The BACRIMs are narco-trafficking organizations that seek to fill the power void left by the fall of the Norte Valle Cartel and the dissolution of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, he said at the time.

In the separate but related anti-drug operation called Seven Trumpets, 34 defendants were charged in five separate indictments for their participation in Colombian-based drug
trafficking organizations that used airplanes to transport thousands of kilograms of cocaine from clandestine airstrips located in South America to clandestine airstrips in Central America, mostly Honduras. The indictment alleges that the United States was the ultimate destination for the cocaine loads.

According to the charges, the drug trafficking organizations used nominees to purchase U.S. registered planes. These nominees, in turn, submitted false documentation to the Federal Aviation Authority to hide the true identity of the purchasers who were members of the drug trafficking organization.

Charged in separate cases in Operation Seven Trumpets are Fernando Bertulucci Castillo, 49; Alvaro Suarez Granados, 53; Sammy Echtaya Rios, 44; Alvaro Suarez Montanez, 25; Marco Castillo Bertrad, 53; Miguel Antonio Monroy Ramirez, 61; Oscar Humberto Sierra Pastrana, 48; Oscar Guillermo Sierra Ferro, 20; John Finkelstein Winer, 57; John Fredy Ruiz Garzon, 33; Enrique Moreno Serrano, 65; Carlos Antonio Ortega Bonilla, 61; Luis Felipe Guerreron,58; Oscar Arbelaez Davila, 62; Norberto Castaneda Vargas, 45; Jose Hugo Salazar Buitrago, 55; Monica Liliana Franco Garcia, 37; Fabio Gracia Montes, 64; Jose Eduardo Suaza Vargas, 38; Alejandro Canal Duplat, 43; Cristina Eblin Guerra Moo, 54; Dorian Alejandro Menco Delgado, 33; Jorge Barragan Mejia, 55; Richard Alexander Dixon Figueroa, 41; Braulio Tarquino Blanco Davila, 34; Edgar Fernando Delgado Castro, 56; Jorge Enrique Arrauth Gonzalez, 51; Jaime Garcia Garcia, 61; Carmina Perdomo Barona, 54; Arturo Molano Rodriguez, 59; Jairo Alonso Reina Castillo, 60; Augusto Lozano Garcia, 43; Orlando Gomez Pinzon, 55; and Fernando Sandoval Vasquez, 58.

Meanwhile in Panamá law enforcement officials said Friday that 80 Panamanians and Colombians were detained in another anti-drug operation. The criminal organization was responsible for moving 18 tons of cocaine over two years mainly through the Caribbean.

The smuggling operation was linked to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the anti-government rebels.

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