Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Colombia’s most-wanted drug trafficker, Alvaro Uribe Sul alias “Otoniel,” has been captured , the government has announced.
Senior Colombian authorities said Thursday that Otoniel’s arrest followed intelligence work by Colombian authorities and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The joint operation — which included a satellite collaboration with the US Navy — was conducted in cooperation with the help of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Otoniel was captured in a seaside neighborhood of Argentina’s southern city of Rosario, according to Colombian Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Eduardo Geovanni Quintero who announced the news in Bogota.
Geovanni said the US, Argentina and Colombia had successfully collaborated on the prisoner since 2014. Uribe Sul was convicted in 2003 of kidnapping and money laundering for his paramilitary group, AUC. Otoniel escaped from prison in March 2004 and is believed to have lived in Mexico since then.
Otoniel, 46, was sentenced to 60 years in prison for murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking by a Colombian court in 2014. Colombia then offered a $1 million bounty for information leading to Otoniel’s capture.
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Uribe Sul was responsible for trafficking cocaine “of every color,” according to government officials.
“Many of the routes and towns where cocaine that came into the country had its origins passed through Rosario and the region. This allowed us to identify Otoniel in order to arrest him and capture in Argentina with the cooperation of Argentina,” Geovanni said.
“Using intelligence developed by the police and DEA we had all of the information and led us to the location where he had taken refuge in Argentina. From this cooperation we linked up with Argentina and Uruguay, Paraguay, to Ecuador and Peru, and then with Colombia.”
The region, on the southwestern end of the Argentine Peninsula, is also home to Argentina’s highest civilian population and has gained fame for its beaches and other idyllic vacation destinations.
Beach towns in Rosario have attracted a string of celebrity visitors in recent years, including actor Gerard Butler and the singer Paul McCartney.
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Otoniel’s arrest comes as Colombia closes ranks around new President Ivan Duque, elected this year after campaigning against the peace deal signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Duque has spoken out against legalizing marijuana and is among the most outspoken proponents of South America’s illegal opium industry, a big business for countries in the region and a major source of revenue for rebel groups in the region.
In a meeting earlier this month, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay backed a discussion on efforts to eradicate coca crops and criminalise criminal activities in order to create legal economies in Colombia.
He has spoken frequently of his “aggressive” drug policy, as a way to protect children from addiction.