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Colombian paramilitary leader arrested in Venezuela

The Americas Post - Looks like Venezuela is no longer so safe for Colombian fugitives like Martin Llanos

A fugitive Colombian paramilitary leader accused of dozens of crimes and drug trafficking has been captured in Venezuela according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in a fresh sign of cooperation from Caracas.

The capture of Hector Buitrago Germain, alias “Martín Llanos”, and his brother Orlando Nelson, aka “Horse”, took place this weekend in the state of Anzoategui, days before a meeting of defense ministers of the two countries.

Since Santos took office in August 2010 and restored diplomatic relations with Venezuela, the government of President Hugo Chavez has captured members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), as well major drug traffickers.

The cooperation ended a period of tense relations, in which former President Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of providing refuge to guerrilla leaders.

“I want to congratulate the Police on striking a major blow. And thank the Venezuelan authorities for the close collaboration that gives a very sought after result, because we were looking for this guy a long time,” said Santos.

Buitrago, 44, led the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Casanare, a paramilitary group with a presence in a wide area of ​​eastern Colombia, considered strategic for the production and trafficking of cocaine.

That illegal armed group, which initially fought the leftist guerrillas, faced off years later with another paramilitary faction for control of the region in a confrontation that left thousands dead.

Buitrago and his brother walked away from controversial peace talks with Uribe, which led other some 30,000 other right-wing paramilitary combatants to lay down their arms.

“Martín Llanos has 11 arrest warrants and in fact already has a sentence of 40 years in prison,” said Santos.

“He starred in one of the bloodiest wars of the Eastern Plains and left hundreds, I would say thousands, of victims, made pacts with the FARC to share the drug business, which in recent years spread to several countries of the continent, from Venezuela to Bolivia, ” he said.

The Buitrago brothers will be delivered to Colombia on Thursday, according to Venezuela’s Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami.  The capture took place just four days before a meeting between defense ministers of both countries to discuss cooperation in combating drug trafficking and illegal armed groups.

Venezuela is a key route for drugs coming from Colombia to the U.S. and Europe, according to security sources.