HomeNewsAnalysisColombian Capo 'Loco' Barrera Talks Killing Enemies, Trafficking Cocaine

Colombian Capo 'Loco' Barrera Talks Killing Enemies, Trafficking Cocaine


Recordings of Colombian drug trafficker Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco," speaking to Colombian and Venezuelan authorities shed light on the inner workings of his criminal organization, as well as his brash personality. 

The audio, published by Semana magazine, features Barrera speaking on a range of subjects, justifying his reasons for killing off several of his enemies, and describing his alliance with other Colombian drug trafficking organizations. 

[Listen to audio clips on Semana.com of Barrera talking about cocaine exports and the Urabeños].

Barrera, a drug kingpin who has been compared to Pablo Escobar, was arrested in Venezuela in September then deported to Colombia. He was involved in the drug trafficking industry for more than 20 years, working with neo-paramilitary groups like the now-disbanded ERPAC, and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He is now in a Colombian prison awaiting extradition to the US

Semana reports that the audio recordings are taken from hours of interrogation that Barrera underwent from Venezuelan and Colombian officials. The magazine notes that despite the many topics addressed by Barrera, one particularly controversial issue is left out of the recordings made available: alleged collaboration between Barrera's organization, the security forces, and other government authorities. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Some of Barrera's comments verge on being flippant. At one point, he states, "It's more difficult to go grocery shopping than to move 1,000 kilos [of cocaine]." On his expectations from the US, he says, "I'm going to collaborate with justice system and I'm going to hand over assets. But I can't hand over everything. I need something for my retirement."

Barrera was reportedly in talks with US authorities about turning himself in during the months leading up to his surrender, but the negotiations fell through. The tone of some of his remarks in the audio recordings paint a picture of a man who was never serious about giving himself up. 

Some of Barrera's other comments hint at a man who saw himself as abiding by his own moral code, in contrast to other Colombian crime lords. He says he ordered the April assassination of his former head hitman Jairo Saldarriaga, alias "Mojarro," because Saldarriaga planned to target Barrera's family in Argentina. "I couldn't permit that situation and so I ordered the job." Barrera complains that Mojarro was also acting "disrespectful. He was asking for money in my name, something I've always hated and detested." 

Barrera adds that he ordered the death of Yesid Nieto, a notorious emeralds trader, in 2007, because Nieto wanted Barrera to hand over a piece of land and was threatening to kill Barrera. "I couldn't let them kill me over nothing," Barrera states. "You only get one life."

Barrera then contrasts his own leadership style to other Colombian criminals, whom he depicts as morally bankrupt. The leader of the Urabeños criminal organization, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel," is "an animal," in Barrera's words.

"That guy doesn't deserve a chance. He's killed children over nothing... the guy's an animal. He's very dangerous... They're sickos who live to take things away from people and kill them." Barrera also criticizes another known Colombian warlord of the Eastern Plains, the now deceased Miguel Arroyave, as "crazy" for using torture on his enemies, including using a chainsaw. 

One of the ironies of such remarks is that Barrera is believed to own over a thousand hectares of land in Colombia's Eastern Plains, which belong to victims of the Colombian conflict. He also originally earned his nickname, "Madman," for the ruthless killings he ordered in revenge for the death of his brother, Omar, in the late 1980s. Barrera's critique of other Colombian crime lords for being deranged "animals" hints at his own skewed perception of himself as a business man who only takes violent action for "legitimate" reasons, such as when his family is threatened. 

While describing his cocaine trafficking operations, Barrera presents it as a straightforward business. In collaboration with several other drug traffickers, each one would buy 500 kilos of cocaine and deploy shipments of 1,000 to 2,000 kilos from areas like Colombia's Pacific coast. Barrera only bought his loads from the FARC, he states. 

When Barrera was arrested, the government described him as Colombia's "last capo." As indicated by the audio recordings made available by Semana, Barrera apparently did see himself as somewhat exceptional, following his own moral code in a risky business, in contrast to those around him. While the Urabeños are currently the organization best poised to become the dominant power in the Colombian drug trade, Barrera would seem to dispute that and he  may even consider himself irreplaceable. What's clear from his brash assertions is that he certainly was one of a kind. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

COCA / 7 SEP 2016

A controversy over Colombia's drug strategy reflects an official sense of urgency to reverse booming coca cultivation as the country…


Warnings that Colombia's bilateral ceasefire with the ELN guerrilla group could crumble because of violence in a criminal hotbed could…

BOLIVIA / 20 APR 2021

An old associate of Pablo Escobar, who spent 27 years in prison in the United States, is behind bars once…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…