Colombian Drug Cartel Leader Is Found Dead

( Los Angeles Times ) - Authorities in Venezuela said that Wilber Varela, the leader of Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel, had been found shot to death in the Venezuelan resort town of Merida.

The location of the killing underscores the evolution of drug trafficking in the region. Increasing amounts of Colombian cocaine destined for U.S. and European markets flow through Venezuela, and as much as one-third of all the narcotic powder is thought to transit there.

Varela, 50, had long been rumored to be living and working in Venezuela under protection of corrupt officials. He was indicted in 2004 on drug trafficking charges by a Washington, D.C., federal court, a warrant issued for his arrest, and a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. State Department.

At a news conference in Caracas on Friday, Nestor Reverol Torres, director of Venezuela's National Antidrugs Office, said authorities used intelligence and fingerprints to conclude that a dead man registered at a Merida resort hotel as Jose Antonio Perez Chacon was indeed Varela.

"It's been convincingly determined that we are dealing with the same person," Reveron said.

The bullet-riddled bodies of Varela and Weimar Perez Aramburu, thought to have been Varela's bodyguard, were discovered Wednesday in Merida in Venezuela's mountainous southwest.

Details of the killings were unclear, apart from a report that two men originally were accompanied by two other men who escaped. No arrests have been reported.

The Norte del Valle cartel, named after a farming region north of the Colombian city of Cali, is among Colombia's most powerful cocaine trafficking operations. It controls much of the drug trade on Colombia's Pacific Coast, as well in Venezuela.

In Varela's 2004 indictment, prosecutors alleged that the Norte del Valle cartel shipped 500 metric tons of cocaine worth $10 billion from Colombia between 1990 and 2004.

Last summer reports surfaced that the cartel also had made inroads into the Colombian military. A Colombian admiral gave coordinates of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels to the cartel so their drug shipments could avoid interdiction, Colombian prosecutors said.

In 2006, Colombian army soldiers killed 10 U.S.-trained anti-drug police near Jamundi, allegedly on the orders of Norte del Valle cartel bosses.

Among the cartel leaders arrested in the past several months are Diego "Don Diego" Montoya and Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, "El Chupeta," who was arrested in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Such arrests, as well killings and a power struggle that U.S. officials estimate has left 1,000 people dead in recent years, decimated the cartel's leadership, leaving Varela on top.

Varela "was in recent years the major boss of Colombian drug trafficking organizations," said Gen. Oscar Naranjo, commander of the Colombian National Police. "What has happened should be a blow to criminal organizations. ... He is the last of the big capos of Norte del Valle cartel."

The U.S. government recently stepped up criticism of Venezuela for not doing enough to stem the flow of drugs, or prosecute police, national guard and army officials who are thought to be involved.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month, White House drug czar John Walters said the Venezuelans' inaction in the face of increased drug flows was "tantamount to collusion." Venezuela vigorously denied the charges and brought a complaint against the U.S. before the Organization of American States. It said its counternarcotics program was effective and producing arrests and seizures

Drugs and other contraband always have passed through the porous 1,400-mile Colombia-Venezuela border. But U.S. officials say the volume of cocaine crossing the border has accelerated sharply since August 2005, when President Hugo Chavez called a halt to all cooperation between United States and Venezuelan anti-drugs officials, claiming that U.S. agents were spies.

Chavez told U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in the fall that he would like to restart counternarcotic cooperation. So far, nothing has come of it, U.S. officials say.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Buta Airways to Resume Flights from Baku to Kazan and Ufa
Buta Airways to Resume Flights from Baku to Kazan and Ufa
Azercosmos OJSC announces tender
Azercosmos OJSC announces tender
Baku Transport Agency talks details of bus accident on Zikh highway
Baku Transport Agency talks details of bus accident on Zikh highway
Loading Bars
Georgia’s imports of copper ores from Azerbaijan down
Islamic State claims responsibility for attack in Herat, Afghanistan
Speaker of Armenian National Assembly to temporarily be Acting President
Georgia’s revenues from tourism to surge in 2022 – Galt & Taggart
Italy reports 138,860 COVID cases on Sunday, 227 deaths
Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran to visit Azerbaijan
Armenian president resigns
Iraq schedules crude shipments for March loading amid strong demand: Official
Italy's Berlusconi hospitalised in Milan since Thursday
Turkey sees increase in number of real estate purchased by Kazakh citizens in 2021
Talks between Taliban and Western and Afghan representatives underway in Norway
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
Azerbaijan confirms 1,697 more COVID-19 cases, 526 recoveries
Some 72 COVID-19 cases recorded among those arrived at Beijing Olympics
Thai PM to visit Saudi Arabia as diplomatic relations thaw
US Navy says it detained ship delivering cargo for Houthis from Iran
Biggest problem with US is its support to YPG: Defense minister
Russia confirms over 63,200 COVID-19 daily cases
Azerbaijan prioritizes creation of food safety through local production
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry presents weekly review (VIDEO)
Expat doctors worked alongside Kuwaiti counterparts to revive Kuwaiti health sector: Dr Riyadh Khan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 23
Weekly review of main events of Azerbaijani financial market
Weekly review of main events in Azerbaijan’s ICT sector
Iran discloses volume of electricity generated by Gilan Combined Cycle Power Plant
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Azerbaijan commissions new military facilities (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Tickets are available for two bus trips to Azerbaijan’s liberated Aghdam city
Tank and artillery shells found in Azerbaijan’s Samur-Absheron canal (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Bosphorus Strait temporarily closed in both directions
One person killed, two hurt in Budapest hospital fire -police
Intercity bus plunges into abyss in Turkey’s Istanbul city
An extra meal and snacks twice a day was all it took to improve falling nutrition levels in this tribal district
Almost all Kazakhstan remains in COVID-19 ‘red zone’
Nadal beats Mannarino in battle of left-handers to reach last eight
Azerbaijan holds training exercises in commando military unit (VIDEO)
Georgia reports 9,696 coronavirus cases, 5,408 recoveries, 28 deaths
Training session for reservists continues in Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Iranian currency rates for January 23
Arab League delays annual summit as COVID-19 bites again
Turkey plans to hold next meeting within "3 + 3" format - Erdogan
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions
S.Korea says Iran to regain UN vote after delinquent dues paid with frozen funds
Electricity generation of Iran’s Bandar Abbas TPP surges
Uz-Kor Gas Chemical opens tender for purchase spare parts for analyzers and gas detectors
SCO to consider draft program proposed by Uzbekistan
Iran-Russia annual trade to increase to $10 b from $4 b
Kazakhstan confirms 14,012 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hr
French EU lawmaker Collard joins far-right presidential candidate Zemmour
Pfizer, Moderna boosters up to 90% effective against Omicron: CDC
Turkey’s Turkovac to be tested as booster for Pfizer-BioNTech jab
Guinea junta establishes council to lead transition to elections
Visit aims to rebuild trust with Lebanon: Kuwait foreign minister
UK records 76,807 new COVID cases, 297 deaths
EU Commissioner for Energy to visit Azerbaijan
Pfizer CEO sees annual COVID vaccine rather than frequent boosters
US Dept of State plans to begin evacuation of US embassy staff from Kiev on Jan 24
Blast hits western Afghan city of Herat, killing at least six
Georgia’s coal imports from Kazakhstan triple
Presidential administration of Georgia submits candidates for election commission to parliament
Remittances to Uzbekistan in 2021 totaled USD 8 bln
Iran seeks long-term, all-out ties with Turkey - Raeisi
Massive California wildfire triggers evacuations, closes highway
Italy's Berlusconi decides against running for president
Azerbaijan, Iran talk military cooperation
Azerbaijani chess player continues to lead in Tata Steel Masters tournament
Serviceman of Azerbaijan Army dies in non-combat conditions
Number of Turkish jobseekers in Uzbekistan revealed for 2021
UAE stops all private drone activities, light sports aircrafts
Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways
German conservatives elect right-winger Merz as new party leader
Non-hydro renewables overtake hydro for first time in Turkey
Record-breaking indicators in non-oil sector - what is secret to success of Azerbaijan's economic strategy?
Iran shares data on exports from Aras Free Trade Zone
Kazakhstan names damage caused to business as result of large-scale rallies
Georgia publishes COVID-19 data for January 22
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price dips
India now allows 6 people to register on one number for Covid vaccination
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 1,614 more COVID-19 cases, 610 recoveries
Azerbaijan changes rules for quarantine control of Covid-19
India's Karnataka approves design & launch of nano-satellite by govt school students at Rs 1.9 Cr
‘One Modi cannot change a country, need more icons like him’: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Seizing of illegally stored weapons from citizens continues in Kazakhstan - interior minister
Azerbaijani border serviceman commits suicide in military hospital
Iran unveils details of agricultural export
Kazakh Armed Forces performing tasks to ensure public order in regions with “red” level of terrorist threat
Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
Number of COVID-19 infections in Russia surpasses 11 mln since pandemic began
Kazakhstan developing measures to reform Samruk-Kazyna Fund's activities
PMO records surge in load/unload operations at Iranian ports
S&P predicts gas production growth in Azerbaijan through 2025
Turkmen medical enterprise discloses production data
Azerbaijan to hold auction for Ferrum Kapital CJSC's bonds
Kazakh president talks need to continue work to reveal all circumstances of recent riots
Kazakh oil and gas company to purchase helium via tender
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 22
Oil price spikes likely in 2022 amid inventory tightness midyear
7 killed, 16 injured in massive fire in central Mumbai high-rise
All news