Ecuador Captures Alleged Link Between ‘Loco’ Barrera, Sinaloa Cartel

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Police in Ecuador have captured a man who allegedly serves as the link between powerful drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico, in a sign that the authorities could be moving closer to capturing Colombian kingpin Daniel “El Loco” Barrera.

Heriberto Fernandez Ramirez, alias “Beto,” was a high value target for Colombian police, and is believed to have been extremely well-connected in the country’s criminal underworld. After tracking him for some time, Colombian police alerted their counterparts in Ecuador that Fernandez was in the port city of Guayaquil. He was arrested on February 7, and transferred to Colombia. Fernandez is also sought by the US on drug trafficking charges.

Fernandez Ramirez reportedly began his criminal career as a middleman for Maximiliano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” who was captured last November in Venezuela. After a disagreement two years ago, Fernandez broke with Valenciano and allegedly began working for Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco Barrera.” Fernandez is thought to have become a key link between the Colombian kingpin and Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, allegedly meeting Sinaloa operatives in Honduras to set up drug shipments.

InSight Crime Analysis

The capture of Fernandez is the latest sign that authorities are monitoring Barrera’s drug network, and are getting closer to arresting Barrera himself. The kingpin is coming under increasing pressure from law enforcement, so much so that he may have killed a former associate of his in June for fear that he intended to betray him to the authorities. Indeed, intelligence sources have told InSight Crime that Barrera is considering turning himself in, and has begun negotiating the terms of his surrender with US officials.

The allegation that Barrera sent Fernandez to Honduras to meet lieutenants of the Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” is significant. The deteriorated rule of law in Honduras, along with the high incidence of police corruption, have made the country an ideal transit point for drug trafficking organizations in the region. In September, Honduran Defense Minister Marlon Pascua claimed that 87 percent of cocaine which is sent from South America to the United States passes through Honduras. If Fernandez and Sinaloa Cartel representatives actually met in Honduras, it could suggest that the Mexican cartel is seeking to cut out Central American middlemen.

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