Trial testimony from the self-described right-hand man of alleged El Salvador drug trafficker "Repollo" has provided a snapshot of the workings of Central American drug transport networks and the trafficking chain that stretches from Colombia to the United States.
Drug trafficker turned state witness Franklin Ernesto Moza Larin provided damning testimony in the trial of Jorge Ulloa Sibrian, alias "Repollo," and 15 others. Moza admitted involvement in 20 drug shipments and said he acted as the second-in-command of the drug lord's transport network, reported La Prensa Grafica.
Moza described how Repollo's trafficking organization worked in collaboration with 11 "substructures" that moved Colombian cocaine from Panama to Mexico. According to Moza, two of these cells were stationed in Panama, one of which was made up of Colombians, three operated in Costa Rica, two in Nicaragua, three in Honduras -- including the notorious Valles clan -- and one in Guatemala.
When asked why so many cells were necessary, Moza replied it was a policy implemented by Repollo that allowed them to work in rotation and better deflect the attentions of the authorities.
Moza also detailed the payments made to transporters, with most drivers paid $100 per kilo of cocaine. However, the price rose to between $200 to $300 per kilo when moving drugs between the municipalities of Cardenas and Ocotal in Nicaragua, a route that allows traffickers to avoid Peñas Blancas, where there is an official crossing point into Costa Rica via the Pan-American Highway.
In early October, Repollo looked set to cut a deal with prosecutors and plead guilty to charges in exchange for a lenient sentence, but prosecutors rejected the terms on offer.
Since then, not only have his former employees turned on him, so have members of his own family, including his daughter, who testified by video from the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Repollo rose from moving small quantities of cocaine between Nicaragua and Guatemala to become one of the most important drug traffickers in El Salvador. Within the country, he built up a powerful network with connections to politicians, police and gangs.
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The testimony at his trial illustrates how he built up contacts and relationships with drug transport groups in virtually every country that cocaine passes through in Central America, as the shipments pass from Colombian suppliers to Mexican cartels.
These "substructures" outside of El Salvador were unlikely to be under Repollo's direct command. However, if Repollo was in charge of decisions such as the rotation between different trafficking cells -- as Moza testified -- this suggests Repollo had moved beyond simply transporting cocaine shipments within El Salvador and was truly a transnational operator.