The latest addition to the United States' "kingpin list" is a low-profile but influential Colombian cocaine trafficker, whose nexus of alliances shines a light on the central role played by FARC guerrillas in trafficking through Venezuela.
Jose Evaristo Linares Castillo, alias "Don Evaristo," was arrested in the eastern department of Meta in May 2012 and is currently facing extradition to the United States.
According to US authorities, Don Evaristo worked in the cocaine trade for over 20 years and was a close ally of the region's principal traffickers, Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, who was arrested in 2012; and Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias "Cuchillo," leader of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army (ERPAC), who was killed in 2010.
Don Evaristo's main method involved sending shipments of 500-1,000 kilos of cocaine by air from the Apure region in Venezuela to Honduras or Guatemala, where local criminal groups moved the loads on to his contacts in Mexican groups such as the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the Treasury and the US indictment against him.
To move his shipments out of Venezuela, Don Evaristo had to make large payments to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has a heavy presence in Apure, for use of airstrips in the region, the extradition request claims (see document below).
InSight Crime Analysis
Don Evaristo appears to have been part of the now mostly dismantled network of Eastern Plains traffickers that was dominated by kingpin Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, the FARC and ERPAC.
With El Loco and Don Evaristo in prison and ERPAC in tatters following the death of Cuchillo, a partial demobilization and constant infighting, the region is in flux, and the battle for control of its lucrative trafficking routes has sparked a new wave of violence.
The one constant has been the role of the FARC, which not only facilitates and taxes trafficking but also controls much of the coca cultivation and production of coca base in the region. The United States' claim that the FARC also controls airstrips on the Venezuelan side of the border is more evidence that the guerrillas not only have a strong presence and key role in trafficking activities on the Colombian side of the border but also on the Venezuelan side -- a politically sensitive issue for the governments of the two countries.