Cali Cartel Leader Arrested
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A man reputed to be one of Colombia’s most violent cocaine traffickers surrendered to police Saturday, the fifth alleged kingpin of the Cali cartel to wind up behind bars in one month.
Phanor Arizabaleta, a 57-year-old rancher whose face is on thousands of wanted posters, turned himself in at the Bogota offices of the DAS, Colombia’s secret police, said DAS Director Ramiro Bejarano.
Arizabaleta, dressed in a blue striped suit and a tie and with his hands cuffed in front of him, was paraded before a throng of journalists. He refused to answer their questions.
When the alleged trafficker surrendered, he announced to police that he wanted to ``submit to the rigors of justice,″ according to the DAS.
``I will answer to the accusations made against me ... and am sure I can prove my innocence,″ Arizabaleta reportedly said.
The Cali cartel, which supplies 80 percent of the world’s cocaine and also exports heroin to the United States, has been hit by almost daily police raids in recent months.
In the past month, two Cali cartel kingpins have been arrested and three, including Arizabaleta, have surrendered. Two other cartel leaders remain at large.
In May, police distributed thousands of wanted posters with photos of the seven cartel leaders on them. The government offered 500 million pesos, or $600,000, for information leading to Arizabaleta’s arrest.
Colombian police have been spurred on by Washington and have received help from U.S. drug and intelligence agents in their operations against the Cali cartel, which controls the world’s cocaine trade and has a big share of international heroin trafficking.
President Clinton, in a letter Thursday to Colombian President Ernesto Samper, congratulated Colombia for its law enforcement successes, but urged it to toughen sentences meted out to drug kingpins.
On Friday night, police nabbed Julian Murcillo, an alleged cartel front man, as he entered a Bogota building. Gen. Jose Serrano, chief of the national police, said Murcillo was carrying a briefcase stuffed with 8 million pesos, or $10,000.
Samper called Murcillo’s arrest ``a new success by the police within the strategy to dismantle the Cali cartel.″
Arizabaleta is suspected, but hasn’t been charged, in the murder this month of a police intelligence chief involved in raids on his properties north of Cali, a southwestern city.
Arizabaleta also is wanted for drug trafficking and for suspicion of kidnapping.
In a letter to prosecutors this week, Arizabaleta denied involvement in the killing of the police officer and said he intended to surrender to clear his name of charges he is a major drug trafficker.
Murcillo, 47, is charged with being a front man and with illegal enrichment. Cali cartel leaders allegedly put many of their properties in Murcillo’s name to hide their true ownership.