BOGOTA – A leader of Los Paisas, one of the new paramilitary groups dedicated to drug trafficking, was captured by the navy in the city of Monteria, the Colombian Defense Ministry said.
Jairo Luis Diaz allegedly smuggled large quantities of cocaine into the United States via the Gulf of Morrosquillo in northwestern Colombia.
Diaz was found at a house in Monteria’s Buenavista neighborhood by navy urban special forces units working with the DAS security agency, the judicial police and the Attorney General’s Office.
The 30-year-old Diaz, who was the subject of a warrant issued on criminal conspiracy charges, operated in the cities of San Antero, Porvenir, Bijadito and Leticia, all used as drug transshipment points.
Two women were also arrested in the operation, which resulted in the seizure of 2,422 rounds of ammunition, two grenade launchers, 10 ammunition clips for rifles, 12 cell phones, 15 cards for cell phones, two laptop computers, two USB memory sticks and a digital planner.
Diaz and the two women were turned over to prosecutors in Monteria.
The new paramilitary groups have taken over the smuggling routes and organizations of the defunct AUC militia federation’s leaders, the majority of whom were extradited to the United States to face trial on drug charges.
Earlier this month, drug enforcement agents seized nearly 1.4 tons of cocaine in two operations in Norte de Santander, a province in northeastern Colombia, and in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, the National Police said.
Colombia’s new militias have at least 4,000 fighters, a large number of them members of the AUC, the Bogota daily El Tiempo reported over the summer, citing an estimate by the National Police.
Authorities told the newspaper that Los Rastrojos and the Los Paisas, Nueva Generacion, Renacer and Magdalena Medio groups “have nearly 4,000 men” and are responsible for a good deal of the criminal activity in the country.
The independent Fundacion Nuevo Arco Iris, however, has information on 82 criminal organizations in its files that have a presence in 273 cities and could have 10,000 armed men.
Only about 42 percent of the criminal activities of these gangs are related to drug trafficking, Fundacion Nuevo Arco Iris said.
“The other 58 percent has to do with extortion, stealing land and the most serious, common crime in the streets of the big cities,” the foundation said.
Fundacion Nuevo Arco Iris said it determined that the emerging paramilitary groups have a total of 10,000 fighters in their ranks, “of whom 5,000 are demobilized (militiamen) who have returned to crime.”
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, accused of committing numerous human rights violations, demobilized more than 31,000 of its fighters between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of the peace process with President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.