Thirty-five alleged members of “Los Urabeños”, Colombia’s most powerful neo-paramilitary drug trafficking organization, were arrested on Thursday. Among the detainees were two local politicians.
The head of the group’s operations in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena, “Pichi”, was also detained, delivering a significant blow to the organization, authorities said.
Cartagena is one of the Urabeños’ key Caribbean ports for the export of cocaine to Central America and later the United States or Europe.
Pichi allegedly reported directly to the leader of the entire organization, “Otoniel.”
The arrests came after 37 searches were conducted across the Atlantic coast in the Sucre, Cordoba, and Antioquia provinces.
Among the arrested included members known as “Yeison” and “Gordi Gordi”, who were implicated in the murder of Ricardo Martinez, brother of ex-mining minister Hernan Martinez. The murder, which occurred in 2010, was part of a larger attempt to extort wealthy Colombian families on the Atlantic coast.
Two aspiring politicians who hoped to get elected to the council and mayoralty of the municipality Tuchin in the Cordoba province were also arrested, on charges they have links to the Urabeños.
The politicians were backed by the Citizen’s Option party and the Liberal Party, both members of the congress coalition of President Juan Manuel Santos.
One of the politicians ran a health insurance company and allegedly helped steer nearly $400,000 to the criminal organization.
“Los Urabeños” are known for using extortion, narco trafficking, and homicide as a means of sustaining their organization.
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