HomeNewsBriefColombia Arrests Air Traffic Controllers With Sinaloa Cartel Links
BRIEF

Colombia Arrests Air Traffic Controllers With Sinaloa Cartel Links

COLOMBIA / 3 APR 2018 BY FELIPE PUERTA EN

The recent arrest in Colombia of two veteran air traffic controllers linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel has once again highlighted the key role played by corrupt aviation authorities in the international drug trade and the growing activities of Mexico's organized crime groups in the world's top cocaine-producing country.

Working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Colombian authorities dismantled a network of 11 people, including corrupt officials accused of overseeing cocaine exports for the Sinaloa Cartel that departed from the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Airport in the southwest Colombian city of Cali, reported El Tiempo.

According to one of the investigators, the drugs traveled to Cali from a few hours away in the department of Cauca, and private jets delivered them to their final destination in Mexico. The group was allegedly under the command of Colombian-Mexican dual citizen Jaime Hernán Velásquez, alias “El Viejo,” who had been arrested in 2003 for his involvement in cocaine trafficking.

Among those arrested in the recent operation were Luis Armando Rivera and Jorge Jimmy Panchalo Calderón, air traffic controllers with more than 50 years experience between them at Aerocivil, Colombia's civil aviation authority.

Some members of the network reportedly had military connections and were responsible for evading air interdiction operations, recruiting pilots and acquiring planes.

The network allegedly extended to airports in the nearby cities of Buenaventura and Cartago, but authorities are not ruling out future arrests in other parts of the country, such as Villavicencio in the department of Meta and the capital city Bogotá.

InSight Crime Analysis

The dismantling of this network is the latest in a series of recent operations Colombian authorities have carried out targeting private planes used for trafficking huge amounts of cocaine internationally.

As InSight Crime has reported, Colombia's booming cocaine production has encouraged well-connected drug trafficking groups to risk sending larger shipments rather than smaller ones, which require a greater dependence on middlemen.

The role of corrupt authorities in these dynamics is key to ensuring the merchandise arrives at its destination.

Furthermore, the recently dismantled network's ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and its involvement in transporting cocaine out of coca farming areas reveal shifts in the drug trade and Colombia's criminal landscape brought about by the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

While Mexican criminal organizations have had emissaries in Colombia for many years, the recent arrests send an alarming message that they could now be seeking greater control over drug production and distribution by corrupting the country's high-ranking officials.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

DRUG POLICY / 4 AUG 2017

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a specialized opioid detection unit to address the drug abuse crisis afflicting…

MEXICO / 29 MAR 2011

After Mexico’s biggest media organizations agreed last week to follow guidelines for reporting on organized crime, InSight explores why the…

COLOMBIA / 27 APR 2011

A report from Just the Facts assesses the achievements of the Colombian government's "consolidation" regions. These areas are centers…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…