WAR ON DRUGS

Argentina extradites drug lord ‘Mi Sangre’ to US

High-security operation saw Jesús López Londoño of the Urabeños cartel flown to Florida

There is no better evidence of the exponential rise of organized crime in Argentina than the arrest of suspected drug lord Jesús López Londoño, also known as “Mi Sangre” (My blood). His capture in October 2012 – while eating with friends at a restaurant in town of Pilar some 60 kilometers from Buenos Aires – was considered the biggest arrest in the history of Argentina’s war on drugs.

‘Mi Sangre’ during his deportation.
‘Mi Sangre’ during his deportation.Télam

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The leader of Colombia’s powerful Urabeños cartel was the target of an international arrest warrant and was on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list.

López Londoño had lived in Argentina since 2011 in the upmarket gated community of Nordelta in Buenos Aires province. He moved residence regularly with an entourage of eight bodyguards, many of them ex-military. Once arrested, he served out part of his sentence in the town of Ezeiza, where he gave several press interviews.

Argentina is starting out on a path that Colombia went through 20 years ago [in terms of organized crime] and I hope they can put a stop to it,” he said to journalists on one occasion.

On early Wednesday morning, prison guards at the Ezeiza facility where López Londoño was held stormed into his cell and roused him from his sleep in what marked the kick-off of a top-secret operation, which included the use of two helicopters for surveillance purposes.

After the operation, Argentina’s Security Ministry published a photo of the “successful operation,” declaring it a key step in the country’s ongoing war against drugs.

López Londoño was later handed over to US authorities in Florida where he is wanted on drug-smuggling and conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors say López Londoño headed up the Urabeños cartel, an organization dedicated to smuggling cocaine to the US, Mexico and Central America, from 2006 to 2012. He is also suspected of laundering profits made through that illegal trade.

The origins of the paramilitary Urabeños cartel date back 20 years. The group has around 1,900 members and is one of the four most powerful mafia-style groups in Colombia along with Los Rastrojos, the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) and the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras).

The time Mi Sangre spent in prison in Argentina was not without incident. On September 3 details emerged of a thwarted escape plan, which was to have involved an attack by commandos operating within the prison. The logistics of the operation were organized by the López Londoño’s attorney, but the lawyer was stopped on his way into the facility, with authorities finding on him a detailed plan outlining the whereabouts of the commando group. The sketch also showed the locations of police stations near the prison and information on a possible escape route.

After the plan came to light, the prison director was relieved of his duties as were two officials thought to have been involved in bringing a telephone and other prohibited items into the cell of Mi Sangre.

English version by George Mills.

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