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Abril 16
Colombia Captures Alleged Drug Lord Wanted in the U.S.

Media: Wall Street Journal
Date: 16 April 2009

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Colombian police captured one of the country's most-wanted alleged drug lords, former right-wing paramilitary commander Daniel Rendón Herrera, in an early-morning raid Wednesday.

The capture is a boost for Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who said the arrest shows his government is battling remnants of paramilitary groups alongside a recent string of military successes against left-wing rebels.

"Day by day, Colombia is getting rid of its criminals," said Mr. Uribe, who was in Rio de Janeiro when he was told of the arrest.

Daniel Rendon Herrera, also known as "Don Mario."

Mr. Herrera, who officials say commanded more than 1,000 men, has been indicted by the U.S. court for the Southern District of New York on cocaine-trafficking charges. U.S. officials said they would seek his extradition.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Mr. Herrera has worked with drug cartels in Mexico. Thomas Harrigan, chief of operations for the DEA, said the "vast majority of the cocaine he smuggled to Mexican cartels ended up on the streets of the U.S."

Mr. Herrera, 44 years old, known as "Don Mario," was captured in a 2 a.m. raid in Necoclí, a municipality in northern Colombia, officials said. Colombia had offered a $2 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Colombia has demobilized 30,000 paramilitary fighters in recent years, Mr. Uribe said. In Colombia's complex civil conflict, many of the paramilitaries were unofficial government allies in its war against left-wing guerrillas. But a number of paramilitary warlords were drug dealers who sought political cover for their drug business by saying they were fighting left wing guerrillas.

With the demise of the militias, "the state has recuperated its monopoly in crime fighting," said Mr. Uribe. He said the number of kidnappings and Colombians leaving the country for safer locations had dropped substantially.

Successes against leftist rebels and drug gangs have made Colombia's president immensely popular. As the country sheds its violent reputation, it has also begun drawing more investment and tourists.

That has led to debate about whether Colombia should amend its constitution to allow Mr. Uribe to run for a third term. On Wednesday, he refused to rule out another election bid. "The question isn't how to perpetuate a president, but we need to perpetuate our policies," Mr. Uribe said.
-José de Córdoba contributed to this article.

Write to Antonio Regalado at



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