Argentina, Bolivia Authorities Arrest South America’s ‘Chapo Guzmán’

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Authorities in Bolivia have arrested one of Argentina’s most sought after drug traffickers dubbed the alleged “El Chapo Guzmán” of South America, in a case that underscores how rampant judicial corruption helps facilitate drug trafficking in the country.

In coordination with Argentina’s National Gendarmerie, Bolivian police on February 13 arrested José Miguel Farfán in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in central Santa Cruz department on drug trafficking charges, authorities announced in a tweet. He was turned over to Argentine authorities the following day.

Farfán is alleged to be one of Argentina’s most sought after drug traffickers. He reportedly bribed federal judges to facilitate his criminal activities and buy his freedom, according to Clarín.

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Authorities first arrested Farfán in 2004 and then again in 2008 on drug trafficking charges before he was released from prison in 2010 by federal judge José Antonio “Toto” Torino — who was later convicted of taking bribes from drug traffickers — in northwest Salta province, according to Clarín.

In 2014, Farfán was arrested yet again for trafficking more than 411 metric tons of cocaine using small planes. However, he bribed the now jailed former federal judge Orán Raúl Reynoso to secure his freedom and fled the country, according to Clarín. A 500,000 Argentine peso (around $13,000) reward was posted for information leading to his arrest.

In Bolivia, Farfán allegedly posed as an entrepreneur and farmer using the name Miguel Ángel Salazar. He and his family led a luxurious double life in Bolivia, living in a mansion and driving a yellow Hummer while he continued his drug trafficking activities, according to Clarín.

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Farfán’s drug trafficking career is a prime example of how known criminals can capitalize on corruption within Argentina’s judicial system to further their criminal activities, live luxuriously and evade capture at the same time.

Indeed, the former Argentine federal judge Reynoso, who Farfán bribed to avoid prison time, is now in jail on charges that he colluded with known drug traffickers and sold confiscated cocaine all while presenting an image that he was tough on such criminals.

In one instance, Reynoso authorized two of his employees to transport seized cocaine meant for destruction back across the border to Bolivia to be repurchased by its original owners, according to La Nación.

This brand of corruption not only allowed Farfán to be freed from jail on multiple occasions, it also let him live a life of luxury in Bolivia without fear of being apprehended while he kept on with his criminal activities. So comfortable was Farfán that he reportedly invested $2 million into a condominium and had plans to build another one, according to Clarín. What’s more, the drug lord used false identification to move around the country and continue trafficking drugs to Argentina from Bolivia using small planes.

As the so-called “Chapo Guzmán of South America,” Farfán shares similar characteristics with the now jailed former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the real “El Chapo.” The Mexican drug lord also escaped prison multiple times with the help of corrupt government officials and continued to run his billion dollar criminal enterprise after doing so. Although El Chapo, on the other hand, managed to evade authorities while trafficking hundreds of thousands of kilograms of drugs right from his home country as he had always done.

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