Colombia’s Legendary Police Chief to Retire: Why Now?

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the national police chief, General Oscar Naranjo, would step down in July, stating that “not in vain has he been considered the best policeman in the world.”

The official reason for Naranjo’s retirement is that, after five years in the top police job, it was necessary for him to move on in order to make way for those coming up through the ranks.

With 34 years in the force, and as a pioneer of police intelligence work against drug trafficking, Naranjo has been involved in the battle against drug lords from Pablo Escobar of the Medellin Cartel, to Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” of the Rastrojos, who is arguably one of the most powerful Colombian traffickers today.

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Inevitably, rumors have swirled around Naranjo during his long career, the latest involving the supposed surrender of Calle Serna to US authorities. The general has been linked to the leaks on DEA negotiations with top drug traffickers. Some sources believe that Naranjo has been releasing this information in the hope of torpedoing the negotiations, afraid of what these capos might tell US authorities.

A great deal of mud has been slung at Naranjo, but very little has stuck. The most consistent accusation against him centered around his friendship with Danilo Gonzalez, a highly decorated former police colonel, who moved from hunting drug lords to protecting them, heading what become known in intelligence circles as the “Devil’s Cartel” made up of serving and retired policemen. Gonzales was assassinated in March 2006, and it was reported that Naranjo attended the funeral of his old friend.

Naranjo was responsible for building up Colombia’s police intelligence capabilities to a world class level. This has been instrumental not only in the arrests of two generations of drug lords, but the killings of senior commanders of the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Image, above, shows General Naranjo (right) with President Santos.

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