BOGOTA – Police have captured Andres Vieda Duque, reputed to be the chief accomplice in Colombia of Mexico’s Gulf drug cartel, Colombian authorities said Monday.
The suspected drug trafficker and two of his associates were arrested separately in the southwestern cities of Cali and Popayan, and in Madrid, near Bogota.
Vieda is believed to have directed the Gulf drug cartel’s operations throughout South America, police said.
The Colombian apparently had to assume the same responsibilities in Central America after the Mexican Juan Manuel Garcia was nabbed in Costa Rica two months ago.
Vieda “had to move in and personally take over supervision of the shipping and delivery of the drug in Costa Rica itself and countries like Guatemala and Panama, where the Gulf cartel set up its storage facilities for the subsequent shipment of cocaine by road,” police said in a statement.
Investigators on the Colombian’s trail documented 14 trips that he made to Panama over the past year.
Probes into that arm of the Gulf cartel began in mid-2010 in Costa Rica and since then more than 2 tons of cocaine were seized that had been smuggled into Mexico.
Also arrested in the same operation were Adalberto Patiño, in charge of drug shipments, and John Alexander Velez, who supposedly managed the cartel’s finances.
Police said that Velez had $834,561 stolen from his home that he had stashed there.
According to those leading the investigation, Vieda provided the Gulf cartel with consignments of cocaine weighing an average of 500 kilos (half a ton) each. EFE