‘Don Mario’, until recently Colombia’s most-wanted drug lord and former paramilitary fighter accused
of thousands of murders, was charged on Tuesday in a Manhattan federal
court with drug trafficking and supporting terrorism, U.S. prosecutors
Daniel Rendon-Herrera, known by the alias “Don Mario,” was charged
with conspiring to support the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC)
rightist paramilitary group, which the U.S. State Department has
designated a foreign terrorist organization. He also was charged with
conspiring to import thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United
Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin unsealed the grand jury indictment
against Rendon-Herrera and five others on Tuesday. If convicted,
Rendon-Herrera faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The once-feared cocaine baron was captured last week, with
authorities saying he was hiding under a palm tree in the jungles of
northern Antioquia province. He is in custody in Colombia.
“The charges against Rendon-Herrera and his capture represent
significant steps in the fight against the most dangerous
narco-terrorist groups,” Dassin said in a statement.
Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in
Manhattan, declined comment when asked if U.S. authorities had
Colombian Defense Minster Juan Manuel Santos told reporters at the
time of the arrest that Rendon-Herrera, who once offered his gunmen a
$1,000 reward for each policeman they killed, is responsible for at
least 3,000 murders.
His ruthless style recalled that of Colombia’s best-known drug
baron, Pablo Escobar, who waged war against the state in the 1980s
until he was gunned down by security forces on a Medellin rooftop in
Rendon-Herrera is the brother of a jailed paramilitary warlord known
as “El Aleman,” or “The German,” a nickname he earned for his
reputation of enforcing strict discipline among his troops.
Rendon-Herrera is accused of running cocaine trafficking in the area
controlled by his brother in the 1990s, when right-wing paramilitaries
battled leftist guerrillas for control of rural Colombia.
The South American country, the world’s largest cocaine producer,
has become less violent under President Alvaro Uribe, who has used
billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to battle the guerrillas and
disarm the paramilitaries.
Much of the cocaine is smuggled to the United States through Mexico,
where thousands of people have been killed by Mexican cartels that have
taken over from Colombian gangs as the dominant drug traffickers in the