Venezuela nabs Colombian cartel leader Maximiliano Bonilla, a.k.a. 'Valenciano'
On the eve of a meeting of the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents, police seized Maximiliano Bonilla and plan to extradite him to the US, where there is a $5 million reward for his capture.
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When Murillo was extradited to the US in 2008, and his successor, Carlos Mario Aguilar, alias 'Rogelio,' did a deal with US authorities, a war broke out for supremacy in Medellin, principally between Bonilla and his arch rival Erick Vargas Cardenas, alias 'Sebastian.' While Bonilla was the more powerful of the two, in terms of resources, Mr. Vargas is believed to be in and around Medellin, leading his faction personally. Bonilla commanded the loyalty of around 1,200 gang members in Medellin and has another 600 men along the Caribbean Coast. However with the arrest of Bonilla, the victory of Vargas in Medellin is still not assured, as another player has entered the city over the last two years: the Urabeños. Led in Medellin by Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias 'Mi Sangre,' the Urabeños were born from the illegal right-wing paramilitary army of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and have many ex-guerrilla and military fighters, able to carry out sophisticated operations with heavy firepower.Skip to next paragraph
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While the conflict in Medellin is certain to be affected by the capture of Bonilla, there may be a short-term consequence in Mexico, especially for his partners the Zetas. Bonilla is believed to have been one of the principal Colombian suppliers of cocaine to the Zetas as the latter wages its bloody war against the Sinaloa Cartel. An interruption to the supply of drugs may give the rival Sinaloans a temporary advantage they can exploit until the Zetas make up the shortfall. Shipments from Bonilla have been tracked by authorities not only in Mexico, but also Jamaica, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Within Colombia there have been reports that Bonilla had links to the rebel group of the National Liberation Army (ELN), securing a steady supply of coca base for his cocaine laboratories from the guerrillas, who control much of the coca crops in parts of Antioquia, Arauca, Norte de Santander, Cauca, and Nariño.
--- Jeremy McDermott is a director at Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region.
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