Venezuelan authorities captured an alleged leader of the Colombian Rastrojos drug gang, who had allegedly fled over the border after a clash with the rival Urabeños, pointing to the ongoing struggle for control of drug routes into Venezuela.

Marco Aurelio Vera, alias “Macuto,” an alleged leader of the Rastrojos, was arrested by Venezuelan authorities in late April in the border state of Tachira. Venezuelan Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva (pictured) announced his capture to journalists on Friday, reports Notimex.

Macuto was reportedly captured with two others after fleeing a battle with rival Colombian drug gang the Urabeños on the Colombian side of the border, and was injured. He is the target of an Interpol Blue Notice, and is one of Colombia’s 20 most wanted criminals, according to Globovision.

Macuto is set to be sent to Colombia in the coming days.

InSight Crime Analysis

In January this year, another firefight between the Urabeños and Rastrojos reportedly resulted in the death of four people, two of whom were Colombian, in Tachira. These clashes highlight the importance to Colombia’s drug gangs of controling trafficking routes into Venezuela, a country that is now believed to be the principal transit point for Colombian cocaine. The US State Department put the amount of cocaine that passed through Venezuela in 2011 at between 161 and 212 tons.

The Rastrojos have come to dominate the drug trade along Venezuela’s border, carving out an alliance with the Mexican Zetas, according to a recent report by think tank Nuevo Arco Iris. The latest battles with the Urabeños suggest that this control will not go unchallenged by the Urabeños.

Cooperation between Venezuelan and Colombian authorities has been on the rise over the last two years. In February, one of the last remaining leaders of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) was arrested in the Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, just months after Venezuelan forces detained one of Colombia’s top drug lords, Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias “Valenciano.”

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