Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante—known as “Rasguño,” or “Scratch”—alleged head of Colombia’s Norte del Valle cocaine cartel, has been extradited to the US to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. He was flown by helicopter July 19 from the Combita maximum security prison to an air base near Bogota, where he was turned over to DEA agents. Norte del Valle rose to become Colombia’s most powerful narco mafia after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s. Colonel Cesar Pinzon, head of Colombia’s Judicial Police (DIJIN), called Gomez the “capo of capos.” The DEA says he was the source up to 60% of all cocaine consumed in the US. Gomez got his nickname when he laughed off a bullet wound to his cheek as “just a scratch.” He was first arrested in Cuba in July 2004 after entering on a false passport, and returned to Colombia six months ago. (BBC, July 20)
Bogota’s El Tiempo reported at the time of Rasguño’s arrest in Cuba that he had faked his own death in a bogus FARC guerilla roadside assassination in his turf of Valle del Cauca department when the Colombian authorities were closing in on him. He sought refuge in Cordoba department at the clandestine base of his friend, the disappeared paramilitary boss Carlos Castaño. Cooperating with the paras, Rasguño had waged a “war of extermination” against the forces of FARC Western Front commander “Pablo Catatumbo,” who he accused of being behind the March 16, 2002 assassination of Archbishop Isaías Duarte.
From Cordoba, Rasguño sought the aid of business associates in Mexico, who arranged for a forged passport, with which he traveled to Havana via Caracas, intending to continue on to Mexico. Mexican authorities are trying to determine which of the country’s three top cartels his accomplices were affiliated with—the Tijuana, Juarez or Gulf.
Back in Valle del Cauca, a power struggle is said to be underway between “Don” Diego León Montoya Sánchez and Wilmer Varela for control of the Norte del Valle cartel. (El Tiempo, July 10, 2004, via Cuba Net)