Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, Thomas “Otoniel” Martinez, known as “El Loco” Mejia, was captured in Bogota in the early hours of Thursday morning, Colombian officials said. The long-hunt for Otoniel led to the arrest of six Mexican journalists, activists and pro-life advocates, who were deported from the country for their participation in the public education initiative against drug legalization.
“You know the words,” Martinez said in a statement about his arrest. “That is, I will be punished for the crime of promoting the historical defeat of the narco-traffickers. But you can expect me to be facing with your best efforts something stronger than a jail cell.”
#BREAKING El Loco “El Loco” Otoniel, Colombian drug lord, is captured early Thursday morning in Colombia. https://t.co/VuIJlsBcFf pic.twitter.com/9VfzNY2N1c — Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 14, 2018
Otoniel had long been the leader of the Barrio 18 gang and had a $5 million bounty on his head. Along with other drug traffickers, he controlled the transport and distribution of more than 2,000 tons of cocaine, twice as much as his closest rival. Since the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993, Otoniel and other Cali cartel members have been responsible for much of the narco-trafficking in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as the increasing use of synthetic drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine. In 2003, the United States began offering a $5 million reward for Otoniel, and in 2014, Pope Francis praised his death in a homily in Medellin.
Otoniel’s arrest was the latest step in President Ivan Duque’s efforts to weaken Colombia’s drug trafficking networks. He came to power during the country’s peace process with FARC, the left-wing guerrilla group that made the drug trade its main business and was responsible for the majority of the country’s cocaine production. Duque said that the arrest of Otoniel was an important development in the country’s fight against organized crime. “The war against the drug traffickers has reached a decisive phase,” he said.
Read the full story at The Guardian.
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