September 15, 2007: Police
and army commandoes tracked down (in the southeastern jungle) and captured drug
lord Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez. He was the head of the largest cocaine
operation in the country, one that shipped several tons of cocaine and heroin
to the U.S. each month. Montoya ran the North Valley cartel, which has been the
top drug operation for over a decade. The North Valley operation used the
defunct AUC as muscle, and suffered enormously when the AUC made peace with the
government. This, and internal rivalries, led to a civil war several years ago,
that left over a thousand dead. The Montoya faction won, but the
government now had the inside track on a lot of the cartel's operations. In the
last year, several major cartel leaders have been caught. The capture of
Montoya is expected to trigger another civil war within the North Valley
cartel, and thus more opportunities for the government to damage the
organizations drug operations.
Government success in
destroying the large cartels has led to the rise of many more smaller
operations. For these mini-cartels, the drug business isn't as profitable, and
it's more dangerous, but the money is still good enough to attract new
operators. These new cartels are more secretive and harder to detect and
infiltrate. But they are less able to bribe officials and hold ground. The
smaller cartels are more at the mercy of their hired muscle (usually FARC), and
more likely to be detected by American anti-drug activities.
While the drugs continue
to move north to the U.S. and Europe, the drug gangs have been forced to adapt
to growing government pressure. For one thing, there's a lot less violence.
Police and army units are quick to respond to any large scale violence, or show
of force, by the drug gangs. This has greatly reduced the murder rate. As a
result, the economy is booming, and the drug gangs have to pay more to attract
the people they need. The government is winning its war against the drug gangs,
but the war is far from over.
The government refused an
offer by Hugo Chavez, president of neighboring Venezuela, to mediate with FARC
for the release of prominent kidnap victims, for jailed FARC officials.
Chavez is seen as an ally of FARC, and sponsor of other leftist movements in