A key figure in the criminal structure headed by Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco,” was arrested in Paraguay, suggesting that the authorities are hot on the trail of the Colombian drug lord.
On May 24, Colombian police chief General Oscar Naranjo announced that Rutdy Alirio Zarate Moreno, alias “Runcho,” had been captured on May 19 in Asuncion, in a joint operation with Paraguayan and US anti-drug officials.
According to Naranjo, Runcho served as the legal representative for a number of front companies used to launder illicit profits from the drug trade, among them a Madrid-based gemstone trading company. The Colombian national is currently being held in his home country awaiting extradition to the United States, where he faces drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
As an organization chart released by the US Treasury in December 2010 shows, Runcho is considered a key facilitator in El Loco’s drug trafficking operations. Two other members of the organization who held a similar rank were captured that year, but Runcho managed to evade the authorities for a further year and a half.
ABC Digital reports that he was finally tracked down to a hotel in downtown Asuncion, where the operation took place.
InSight Crime Analysis
Runcho’s arrest is the latest in a series of setbacks for El Loco’s organization. In September 2011 the US indicted the kingpin on drug charges, and in December Colombian officials arrested an associate of his who was reportedly a vital link to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. The biggest blow yet came in February, when Colombia extradited Danilo Bustos Suarez, El Loco’s former right hand man, to the US.
These cases suggest that the US is closing in on El Loco, and, with the drug kingpin reportedly negotiating his surrender with US drug officials, it may be part of a strategy designed to force his hand. If he does turn himself in, it may have serious repercussions. El Loco is head of one of Colombia’s largest and most prolific drug trafficking organizations, and his exit could leave a power vacuum in the country’s criminal underworld.