‘El Loco’ Barrera Extradition Opens Door for More Fragmentation

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Notorious Colombian drug trafficker Daniel “El Loco” Barrera has been extradited to the United States, marking the end of the era of Colombian capos and cartels as the country’s underworld continues to fragment.

Barrera was flown to New York, where he will be arraigned on drug trafficking charges first in a Manhattan federal court, then in a Brooklyn federal court. He also faces additional charges in Florida.

SEE ALSO: Daniel ‘El Loco’ Barrera Profile

He was arrested in Venezuela in September 2012, bringing an end to a multi-decade career in drug trafficking, which saw Barrera become one of the most influential figures in Colombian organized crime.

InSight Crime Analysis

After his capture, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called Barrera the “last of the capos,” and his extradition provides a fitting end to a period dominated by infamous drug-trafficking kingpins and monolithic cartels. In its place, a new era of more decentralized criminal networks has sprung up, with no one figure or organization able to lay claim to the power and influence garnered by their predecessors.

Barrera was renowned for his negotiating skills and for establishing a broad network of drug trade contacts, which spanned the spectrum of Colombian organized crime. Barrera built alliances with numerous organizations, including the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), from which he bought cocaine, and the now fragmented narco-paramilitary group the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC).

After his arrest, Semana obtained recordings of Barrera in which he announced his intention to collaborate fully with law enforcement. If he carries through on this plan, then further details are likely to emerge about his allies’ operations, as well as his transportation networks in Venezuela, Central America and Mexico, and connections with corrupt authorities throughout the hemisphere.

Barrera’s departure also raises questions over who will fill the vacuum he leaves behind. There are already indications of rising violence in the Eastern Plains region, which was once dominated by Barrera and his allies in ERPAC.

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