Colombia, U.S. bust ‘mafia company’ cocaine ring

BOGOTA, (Reuters) – Colombia and the U.S. drug  agency have broken an airport drug ring in the world’s No. 1  cocaine producer that sent up to 2 tonnes of cocaine monthly to  Mexico and the United States, police said today.
Colombian police supported by the U.S. Drug Enforcement  Agency nabbed 26 suspected traffickers, four of whom are wanted  for extradition to the United States, in Colombia’s coastal  cities of Barranquilla and Santa Marta as well as Monteria in  the northwest and the capital Bogota.
“This structure dedicated to drug trafficking had set up a  true mafia company sending aircraft from Colombia to Central  America, destined for Mexico and the United States,” said  General Oscar Naranjo, head of Colombian police.
“This operation has also led to capture five civil  aeronautic officials based in the north coast that facilitated  these operations,” he said.
The trafficking group, which used the aviation officials to  authorize the drug flights, allegedly was headed by Jesus  Lopez, alias “My Blood,” who had been part of outlawed,  right-wing paramilitary groups, officials said.
Colombia, where drug traffickers take advantage of dense  jungles and forests and a weak state presence in some areas,  has received billions of dollars in aid from Washington to  fight drug output, rebels and cartels.
Colombia’s new criminal gangs — made up of a kaleidoscope  of former paramilitary commanders, ex-cartel members and others  — ship tonnes of cocaine monthly through Central America and  Mexico to the United States, and to a lesser extent to Europe.
In many Colombian provinces, criminal bands and leftist  rebels team up in the drug trade since FARC and ELN guerrilla  groups, which control the majority of coca production while  gangs are better known for handling transport.
In the past decade, the United States has poured $5 billion  dollars into Colombia to fight drugs with military equipment  and crop eradication programs but Bogota still struggles to  stem its illegal drug trade.

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