Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lessons for Mexico from Colombia's Capture of Drug Kingpin?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Lessons for Mexico from Colombia's Capture of Drug Kingpin?

Article excerpt

Colombian drug lord "Don Mario" might have been on his way to becoming the next Pablo Escobar, heading a vast trafficking empire that controlled cocaine shipments along the Caribbean coast. But he was still trying to consolidate his power when police caught him this week cowering under planks of wood beneath a palm tree.

The capture Wednesday of the drug lord, whose real name is Daniel Rendon, was hailed as a "major blow."

Colombia's successes against drug lords, a former senior US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official explains, are the result of decades of experience by top law-enforcement officials, of Colombia's policy of extraditing wanted traffickers to the US, and of US funding, intelligence, and technology.

These lessons from Colombia could well be applied in Mexico, where drug cartels are facing off with the government in bloody battles, and where President Obama arrived Thursday to talk about increasing violence.

"Two things that really turned things around in Colombia were extradition and the use of wiretaps," says the DEA official, who worked Colombia and Mexico and asked not to be named. "There are lessons to be learned for Mexico" from Colombia's experience.

Working with the US

The operation to capture Mr. Rendon was commanded by Colombians, but his location was pinpointed with the help of US satellite- imaging technology, according to local officials.

Rendon is wanted in Colombia on charges of drug trafficking, murder, and conspiracy. But in keeping with Colombian judicial policy, he will probably be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for exporting 100 tons of cocaine.

However, the former DEA official says, while Colombia "was desperate for our help, Mexico does not want the US telling them what to do."

"Only recently has Mexico started to extradite these drug lords," he says, underscoring the fact that it is harder for capos to buy their way out of jail in the US than in either Colombia or Mexico.

More kingpins to come

Meanwhile, officials in Colombia recognize that capturing one drug lord is not enough - that where one is cut down, two or three will crop up in his place. …

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