Venezuela turns over drug lord

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan authorities deported a prominent drug trafficking suspect to Colombia on Wednesday, nearly two months after his capture in an operation aided by Colombian and U.S. authorities.

Colombian officials consider Daniel Barrera, 50, one of the country’s most-wanted drug lords.

Venezuelan Justice Minister Nestor Reverol said Barrera had a false passport when he was captured in September in the southwestern Venezuelan city of San Cristobal.

Barrera is known as “El Loco,” or “The Madman,” and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called him “the last of the great capos.”

The 50-year-old Barrera was arrested after Colombian officials, who had been working with U.S. and British authorities, notified Venezuela that Barrera was making a call from one of dozens of public phones that were being monitored, officials said.

Colombia police say Barrera had been in Venezuela since 2008 and owned ranches worth millions of dollars. Colombian police had offered a reward of about $2.5 million for information leading to his arrest.

The authorities have said Barrera operated in a swath of eastern Colombia including areas along the border in Venezuela, and had a drug smuggling alliance with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.

According to a 2010 grand jury indictment in U.S. District Court in New York, Barrera was both manufacturing and trafficking drugs on a large scale, buying raw cocaine paste from FARC rebels and converting it into cocaine at his labs in eastern Colombia. The indictment said that amounted to as much as 400 tons per year, and that Barrera then arranged shipment of the drugs through Colombia and Venezuela to the United States, Europe and Africa.

The other two drug trafficking suspects handed over to Colombian authorities on Wednesday included Jorge Cifuentes Villa and Eduardo Acosta Mejia.

Reverol said the 30-year-old Acosta is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the Dominican Republic, and is wanted by Colombian authorities on drug trafficking charges.

Acosta, who was arrested in western Tachira state in August, formerly was a member of the U.S. military and served in special forces for the Navy, Reverol said. He said that Acosta has worked as a “bodyguard for criminal organizations” in Colombia, and that Venezuelan authorities determined he had the “profile of a mercenary.”

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