Authorities have captured one of Colombia's last great crime bosses, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday night.
Accused drug lord Daniel "El Loco" Barrera was captured in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Santos said. Barrera is accused of alliances with paramilitaries and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group in addition to drug trafficking crimes over a period of more than 20 years.
"He is the last of the great (crime) bosses. This is very forceful blow," Santos said in televised remarks. "This is a very important step toward the security that we want to achieve in this country," he said.
The operation, directed from Washington, came about with collaboration between British, Colombian, U.S. and Venezuelan officials, Santos said.
"I want to thank the Venezuelan government, President (Hugo) Chavez and his team, for this great collaboration that has produced this capture," Santos said. The MI6 British intelligence agency and the CIA also assisted, he said.
Venezuela's interior minister will discuss Barrera's capture and "the seizure of more than a ton of drugs" in a news conference Wednesday morning, the nation's information ministry said in a statement.
In October 2010, Colombian authorities said they found more than $29 million and 17 million euros in cash stashed in two homes that Barrera owned. At the time the South American country's defense minister called it the "biggest drug-money seizure operation in the country's history."
Earlier that year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said Barrera played a significant role in international drug trafficking and described him as one of Colombia's most wanted drug traffickers, noting in a statement that the Colombian government had offered a $2.5-million reward for information leading to his capture.
The statement said Barrera operated primarily in the eastern plains of Colombia, between the capital of Bogota and the Venezuelan border.
An indictment unsealed in a Florida federal court in September 2011 accuses Barrera of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and import cocaine into the United States. If convicted on those charges, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said at the time.