Drug lord extradited to the US

BOGOTA - The last of the major Colombian drug lords -- Daniel "El Loco" Barrera -- on Tuesday was extradited to the United States, where there had been a $5 million reward for his capture, Colombian police said.

His capture in Venezuela last year marked the end of an era when Colombia was under the sway of powerful and violent drug lords like the Medellin cartel's notorious Pablo Escobar, officials said.

"This is the end of the last big capo of the 1980s," General Jose Roberto Leon, the head of the Colombia police, said as he turned over Barrera, to US Drug Enforcement Administration agents at an air base in Bogota.

Barrera, 43, who was deported to Colombia after his capture, was shown to reporters wearing handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest before being put on a plane to New York. He arrived there late Tuesday, officials said.

He is wanted by authorities in New York and Florida for allegedly smuggling 900 tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe between 1992 and 2012, often in partnership with leftist FARC guerrillas.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine, having made 345 tons of the drug in 2011, according to UN estimates.

Leon said Barrera had brought together members of the FARC, criminal bands that grew out of right-wing paramilitary groups and international drug traffickers.

"Here ends the first generation of the big Colombian drug traffickers," he said.

The government of President Juan Manuel Santos is currently in peace talks with the FARC, as the 8,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is known.

Barrera operated in eastern Colombia, allegedly moving cocaine through Venezuela to markets in the United States and Europe.

His drug routes were said to extend into Panama, Central America, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

He was captured in 1990,but escaped from prison several months later.

He apparently moved in 2008 to Venezuela, where he had several properties worth millions of dollars.

But feeling increasingly cornered, he opened discussions with US authorities about his possible surrender.

His arrest in the Venezuelan border state of Tachira in September was the product of a multinational operation involving Colombia, Venezuela, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Colombia's Supreme Court approved his extradition to the United States in an April 4 ruling.

- AFP

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