Colombian authorities have detained and deported one of Peru's most sought-after criminal suspects, signaling a potential shake-up in the Peruvian underworld.
On April 30, police in Medellín arrested Gerson Aldair Gálvez Calle, alias "Caracol," the reputed leader of the Barrio King crime group, which is based in Callao -- Peru's most important seaport.
The suspected crime boss is believed to have fled Peru after being released from prison in October 2014. Serving a sentence for attempted homicide and armed robbery, press reports suggest he may have threatened or bribed officials from the National Penitentiary Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario - INPE) in order to secure his early release.
A number of media outlets have described Caracol as "the new 'El Chapo,'" referring to Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican leader of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel who was re-captured in January after escaping from prison in July 2015.
Although the description of Caracol as the "new 'El Chapo'" may be overblown, he was clearly an important figure in Peru's criminal landscape. RPP Noticias reports that the Barrio King organization headed by Caracol had "absolute hegemony" over bribery and extortion rackets in Callao, and that the group had used its control over the shipping center to facilitate drug trafficking.
The Peruvian National Police had been closely tracking Caracol's international movements for several weeks before his arrest, according to El Comercio. In late March Caracol was detected in Ecuador, reportedly making his way to Panama before entering Colombia. Police sources say that he was traveling with a forged Ecuadoran passport.
La República reports that authorities believe Caracol's presence in Medellín can be explained by two factors: his desire to be closer to his wife, who was residing in that city, and his plans to forge drug trafficking ties with the Oficina de Envigado network.
InSight Crime Analysis
Caracol's capture could have implications for Callao's criminal future. The Barrio King organization suffered a previous blow in November 2015, when Peruvian authorities rounded up more than 20 suspected members of the organization. It is possible that the arrest of Barrio King's top leader could further weaken the group.
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However, the vast potential for illicit profits in Peru's most important port city -- Callao is a major drug transshipment hub -- virtually ensures that other organizations will attempt to fill any void created by Barrio King's demise. And that could be a bloody process. In December 2015, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in Callao due to high levels of violence attributed to crime groups battling for control over the lucrative territory.