Leonidas Vargas, one of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords, was shot dead in his Madrid hospital bed Jan. 8, Spanish authorities said. At least one gunman entered the room in Madrid’s Doce de Octubre Hospital where Vargas was being treated for a serious illness, and shot him four times. The Spanish press reported the assassin asked another patient who was sharing the Colombian’s room if he was Vargas. When the man said no, he took out a gun fitted with a silencer and shot Vargas, who was asleep.
In the 1980s Vargas—known as “El Viejo” or “El Rey del Caquetá”—ran his own cocaine manufacturing and smuggling operation out of a remote rainforest region of Colombia’s southwestern Caquetá department. He was said to be a former partner of the late Medellín kingpin Pablo Escobar. A Colombian court sentenced Vargas in 1995 to 26 years in prison for “illicit enrichment,” but he was freed in 2002. Spanish authorities picked him up for carrying a fake Venezuelan passport under the name “Antonio Ortiz Mora” in 2006, and he was awaiting trial in connection to a 1,100-lb cocaine haul. His trial was delayed and he was transfered from prison to a hospital after he came down with what Spanish media said was a lung-related illness. Spanish authorities say they have identified a hired assassin of Moroccan origin as responsible for the murder. (El Pais, Cali, Jan. 10; Reuters, Jan. 8)