The governor of Colombia's La Guajira department, a major organized crime hub, has been arrested in a case which demonstrates the extent to which politics and criminality go hand in hand in the region.
A Supreme Court prosecutor ordered the capture of Juan Francisco Gomez for alleged links to a catalogue of murders, and other crimes stretching back decades, a history reported on by InSight Crime earlier this year.
The governor of Colombia's most northeastern department is accused of working with powerful regional crime boss Marcos Figueroa, alias "Marquitos," and of links to the United Self Defense Force (AUC) bloc once led by Salvatore Mancuso and Rodrigo Tovar, alias "Jorge 40," reported El Espectador.
In the last few months Gomez, also known as "Kiko," was named as a suspect in the killings of three regional political officials, carried out by the AUC, and two women including Yandra Brito Carillo, who replaced Gomez as mayor of the town of Barrancas as his handpicked successor in 2004. Brito, who was murdered last year, had accused Gomez of the killing of her husband in 2008, following disputes about the management of government funds, reported Semana.
Gomez was captured on October 12 by a team from the Prosecutor General's office, who fought with the governor's police bodyguards in order to detain him, reported El Tiempo. He was taken away in an ambulance, although it is unclear if he sustained injuries in the confrontation.
InSight Crime Analysis
The list of allegations against Gomez is extensive and illustrates just how much wrongdoing one has to be accused of to finally be apprehended in a place like La Guajira, where there have long been accusations of corruption.
The department is a key location in Colombia's criminal landscape, as an entry point for contraband gasoline, weapons and munitions flooding in from Venezuela, and a departure point for light aircraft and go-fast boats carrying drug shipments to the Caribbean. It is also awash with cash from coal mining -- El Cerrejon mine, close to Barrancas, is one of the world's largest open-pit coal mines, and the town received around $15 million in royalties from the industry every year, according to Semana.
Figueroa is believed to be responsible for much of the cocaine moving through the La Guajira and thought to now be affiliated with the Urabeños -- an AUC successor group and Colombia's most dominant criminal organization.
SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profile