An alleged high-ranking member of Colombia's most powerful criminal group, the Gaitanistas, was recently captured in Spain, which may be a sign of increasing competition for European drug markets between the heavyweights of Latin America's underworld.
An alleged leader of a Gaitanistas hit squad, Victor Alfonso Mosquera Perez, alias "Palomo," was captured on December 12 in an upscale neighborhood in Madrid in a joint operation between the US anti-drug agency DEA and the Spanish civil police, reported El Colombiano.
Mosquera began travelling to Spain six months ago on the orders of the Gaitanistas top commander, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel," to carry out "ajustes de cuentas," or assassinations of members of rival drug trafficking groups, reported El Espectador.
One year ago, Mosquera had agreed to give information on drug routes and the Gaitanistas top leadership to the DEA; however, he fled during the negotiations and has been wanted by US authorities ever since, reported El Tiempo.
Spanish authorities have yet to decide whether Mosquera will be extradited to Colombia or the United States, where he allegedly trafficked over one ton of cocaine into the country between 2010 and 2013, reported El Tiempo.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fact that Otoniel sent a high-level hit man to Spain to carry out assassinations against rival drug trafficking groups could suggest competition for trafficking routes in the country are heating up. Colombians have long dominated the cocaine trade in Spain, and Spanish police told InSight Crime Colombians have set up between 12 to 20 "oficinas de cobro," which serve as unofficial arbiters of the drug trade, in the country.
However, reports from early 2014 indicate three Mexican criminal organizations -- the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas, and the Knights Templar -- now have a presence in Spain, with the end goal of pushing out the Colombians and using Spain as a springboard for trafficking operations throughout Europe. While there is little indication this has taken place yet, the seizure of a record amount of Mexican-sourced methamphetamine in Spain provides further hint that criminal groups other than Colombians have an increased ability to move drugs through the country.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of European Organized Crime
Given the sustained security crackdowns in both Mexico and Colombia as well as the substantially higher wholesale price of cocaine in Europe than even in the United States, it is unsurprising Latin American criminal groups are looking to increase their drug trafficking presence in Spain and other parts of the continent to take advantage of the higher margins.