A former commander of one of Colombia’s most notorious criminal gangs, “Los Urabeños,” has been extradited from Spain, local media reported Friday.
Carlos Andres Gonzalez Palencia, more commonly known by his alias, “Visage,” was captured in Madrid in November 2013.
Police allege that Palencia travelled to Spain to research new drug routes and form a network of hitmen operating under the control of Los Urabeños.
He was captured in a joint operation by Interpol and the DEA, following a two-month investigation that stretched across three countries.
The former neo-paramilitary commander had an international warrant out for his arrest, and was wanted by Colombian authorities for crimes related to drug trafficking, conspiracy, murder, and extortion.
He managed to escape from jail in 2010, after spending more than four years in Colombian prison.
Palencia was nearly caught in September 2013 after organizing a meeting for members of Los Urabeños near the border with Venezuela. The meeting was compromised and ended in a firefight that left six Urabeños fighters and one police captain dead.
Palencia had overseen the Urabeños fight for control of the drug routes along the Colombo-Venezuelan border with rival group “Los Rastrojos,” who have seen their influence across the country diminish following the capture of their founder, “Diego Rastrojo,” in June 2012, and his successors, the Serna brothers.
The Urabeños are one of the main criminal gangs that emerged from the demobilization of the now defunct paramilitary organization, AUC.
Although the AUC was formally demobilized in 2006, successor criminal groups were formed by mid-level commanders of the paramilitary organization, who did not take part in the demobilization process.
The Urabeños are estimated to possess over 2,300 fighters, more than Colombia’s second-largest rebel group ELN. They are thought to be expanding their operations into Venezuela. The gang uses well-trained soldiers to coordinate local criminal operations, including micro-trafficking networks.
Public security forces claim to have captured 1,738 members of criminal gangs in 2013.