Police in Colombia have captured an arms dealer whose operations reached across continents and whose criminal contacts spanned the spectrum of Colombian armed groups.
According to police, Gustavo Velasquez, alias "El Señor de la Guerra" (the Lord of War) sourced assault rifles through contacts in Israel and Russia and moved them through Venezuela and into the department of Norte de Santander in Colombia.
Police say the arms were then sold on to the narco-guerrilla Victor Ramon Navarro, alias "Megateo," who heads the heavily criminalized remnants of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL). Deals with Megateo went through the regional head of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, known as "Ricardo Boquete," who served as Velasquez's point of contact with Megateo.
SEE ALSO: Megateo Profile
Velasquez is also accused of supplying arms to the narco-paramilitaries of the Urabeños, maintaining contact with the leader of the group's operations in the region, known as "Albeiro" or "Lobo."
InSight Crime Analysis
Velasquez's operations illustrate how a well-connected arms trafficker can become the supplier for any number of different armed groups, regardless of whether they have a political agenda or are focused entirely on criminal activities.
Arms dealers such as Velasquez are typically paid in drugs by these groups. This allows the groups to hold on to their hard-earned foreign currency and instead pay in something easily and cheaply obtainable. It also allows the arms dealer to vastly increase their profits by receiving drugs at Colombian wholesale price then using drug trafficking contacts to sell the loads closer to market, increasing their worth substantially. If Velasquez were to move cocaine back along the same route used to move arms into Colombia, then just by crossing the Venezuela border the price could increase from $2,000 - $4,000 a kilo to $4,000 - $6,000.
The cooperation between the ELN and the EPL, which police say also involved sharing intelligence on the movements of security forces, is also indicative of how guerrilla groups function in Norte de Santander. The EPL, the ELN and Colombia's biggest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) all operate in the region and are known to work together both in military operations and in the drug trade -- in which Megateo and the EPL are major brokers and are believed to also run processing operations.