HomeNewsBriefColombia’s ‘Madman’ Pleads Guilty in US
BRIEF

Colombia’s ‘Madman’ Pleads Guilty in US

COLOMBIA / 10 OCT 2014 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Daniel “El Loco” (The Madman) Barrera has pleaded guilty to money laundering in a US federal court, in what could perhaps conclude the saga of Colombia’s last major international drug lord. 

In a federal court in Brooklyn, Barrera pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug profits, reported El Espectador. He had originally pleaded not guilty to the same charges just days after his extradition to the US in July 2013, but changed his position following months of negotiations, according to El Tiempo.

Barrera is also expected to plead guilty on separate charges of international drug trafficking, although it has not been determined when those trials will be held, reported El Pais.

US authorities accuse Barrera of leading a drug trafficking group that processed and trafficked 400 tons of cocaine annually from Colombia to the United States beginning in 1998.

The fallen drug lord faces up to 20 years in prison for money laundering, while a conviction for drug trafficking could result in a life sentence, according to El Espectador.

InSight Crime Analysis

Barrera may very well go down as “the last of the capos” in Colombia, as President Juan Manuel Santos called him following his capture in Venezuela in 2012. His guilty plea in the US is a reminder that Colombia’s organized crime landscape has changed: smaller criminal groups with diverse revenue streams have largely replaced major transnational drug trafficking operations like the one led by El Loco.

Barrera’s connections led him to become one of the most powerful drug traffickers in Colombia up until his arrest in Venezuela. His skill lay in his ability to forge a vast criminal network — including former right-wing paramilitaries and leftist guerrillas — to build his cocaine empire, something that may be hard to replicate, given the currently fragmented state of Colombia’s underworld. 

By the mid-1990s Barrera was a well known middleman, buying semi-processed cocaine from various fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and selling it to the Norte del Valle Cartel, and later to the Centauros Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries. Barrera formed an alliance with Centauros Bloc commanders in 2004, helping transform him from a facilitator to a major drug trafficker on Colombia’s Eastern Plains. 

SEE ALSO: El Loco Barrera Profile

In 2008, El Loco collaborated with Rastrojos leaders Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias “Combo” and Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo” in orchestrating the assassination of a major Norte del Valle Cartel leader operating in Venezuela, giving Barrera control of a vast expanse of trafficking routes. 

Given that there’s no evidence Barrera or various other Colombian capos arrested in Venezuela have been replaced, it is possible the business they once ran has been largely absorbed by the Cartel of the Suns (Cartel de los Soles) — a network of corrupt Venezuelan military officials their allies engaged in cocaine trafficking.

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.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 10 JAN 2014

Colombia's most prominent criminal organization, the Urabeños, have publically claimed responsibility for a major decline in murders in Medellin in…

COLOMBIA / 20 DEC 2017

The recent arrest of one of the top criminal figures in Medellín, Colombia, is unlikely to have a major impact…

COLOMBIA / 31 AUG 2012

Colombia sentenced 43 demobilized members of the ERPAC neo-paramilitary group to over four years in prison, adding to concerns that…

Institutional Content

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …