Guilty plea ends criminal career of Colombia’s ‘last great capo’

Daniel "El Loco" Barrera

Daniel Barrera, a.k.a. “El Loco Barrera,” on Thursday plead guilty to drug trafficking charges before a New York court, putting an end to the criminal career of “the last of Colombia’s great capos.”

According to the United States prosecutors, Barrera is guilty of having led one of Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations from 1998 until his arrest in Venezuela in 2012.

MORE: ‘El Loco Barrera,’ Colombia’s biggest drug lord, arrested in Venezuela

The 47-year-old Barrera agreed to having trafficked some 400 tons of cocaine to the US.

“As part of his role as one of the world’s most notorious narcotics traffickers, the defendant also laundered millions of dollars of narcotics proceeds,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Soumya Dayanada said.

The drug lord was arrested just over the Venezuelan border in September 2012 after successfully having constructed a drug empire unchallenged by any of Barrera’s contemporary competitors.

According to Colombian authorities, Barrera began his criminal activity in the late 1980s when Colombian drug trafficking was dominated by the Medellin and Cali cartels.

Following the downfall of both cartels in the first half of the 1990s, the drug lord gained a prominent role by coordinating drug trafficking routes to Venezuela from Colombia’s eastern plains, dealing with right-wing paramilitary groups, left-wing guerrillas and the Norte del Valle cartel, the successor of the Cali 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.

Following his guilty plea, the Colombian narco faces up to 20 years in prison.

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