Sinaloa Cartel kingpin nabbed in Colombia

Colombian National Police on April 17 announced the arrest in Cali of Cesar Demar Vernaza AKA “El Empresario”—accused boss of Ecuadoran narco-gang Los Templados and purported top South American operative of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. In February, he had escaped from a maximum-security prison in Guayaquil, known as “La Roca” or “The Rock,” where he was serving a 25-year sentence for homicide. He allegedly came to Cali to establish contact with regional narco bosses and rebuild his operations along Colombia’s Pacific coast. Arrested with him was an associate named only as “La Bestia” (the Beast) who was also among the 16 convicts sprung from La Roca in the February jailbreak. La Bestia attempted to resist arrest, taking the residents in his building hostage and threatening to blow up a gas tank. Authorities negotiated him down and he ultimately surrendered. (Colombia Reports, April 17)

Police in Colombia one day earlier seized almost 300 properties belonging to notorious drug lords Daniel Barrera AKA “El Loco”—a longtime leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel, which controls trafficking networks in the Cali area. The properties, including luxury villas, cattle ranches, restaurants and bars, were located throughout the country—in Cundinamarca, Meta, Boyacá, Santander Tolima and Magdalena regions as well as the capital, Bogotá. Barrera was apprehended last year in Venezuela in a rare joint operation by Colombian and Venezuelan authorities with the DEA. He was extradited to Colombia, which is yet to make a decision on extraditing him to the US. Before his arrest, Barrera spent years on the lam following a jailbreak; convicted on drug charges in Colombia in 1990, he escaped less than eight months into his sentence. (BBC News, April 16)