In a televised speech, Santos said Daniel Barrera was arrested in the Venezuelan town of San Cristobal in a joint operation between Colombian, Venezuelan and U.S. authorities.
The operation that resulted in the arrest of “the last of the great capos” was coordinated from Washington by Colombia’s National Police director General Jose Roberto Leon, said the president.
Leon told The Associated Press that El Loco Barrera did not resist arrest while making a phone call from a phone booth.
El Loco Barrera is considered one of the biggest Colombian capos of the past ten years who has been involved with drug trafficking since the late 1980s. The drug lord was arrested and briefly detained in 1990 but escaped prison and was able to expand his drug business uninterrupted until Tuesday.
“He spent more than 20 years dedicated to do wrong with Colombia and the world. He had perverted alliances with paramilitaries, with the FARC, with drug traffickers. He was the boss of [fallen warlord] ‘Cuchillo’ and was the one who replaced [assassinated paramilitary commander] Miguel Arroyava as the person responsible in this chain of crime that he operated in the east of the country,” said Santos.
The president thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan anti-narcotics police, British intelligence agency MI6 and the CIA for the successful operation that led to the “what could be the most wanted capo of recent times.”
El Loco Barrera gained a prominent role by coordinating drug trafficking routes from Colombia’s eastern plains, dealing with right-wing paramilitary groups, left-wing guerrillas and the Norte del Valle cartel alike.
Through his pragmatic alliances, the criminal has been a key player in Colombia’s drug trafficking business since the 1990s and was considered a crucial ally of both the now-defunct Norte del Valle cartel, the FARC and the now-demobilized paramilitary organization AUC.
While the Norte del Valle cartel disintegrated due to infighting in 2004 and the AUC demobilized between 2003 and 2006, El Loco Barrera continued his drug trafficking business, now with groups like Cuchillo’s ERPAC and the Rastrojos, led by former commanders of one of the Norte del Valle’s military machine.
Abroad, El Loco Barrera aligned with the Mexican Sinaloa cartel.
Early last year, authorities announced a $2.7 million reward for information leading to his capture, but Colombian officials did not say whether any tips from informants led to the arrest.