09/13/12 – On Monday, September 10, the Colombian National Police (Policía Nacional) captured Andrés Vieda Duque, considered the primary South American link for then leader of the Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo, CDG), Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, known as “El Coss,” he himself who was then captured two days later. (Read more about El Coss’s arrest here). Along with Vieda, subordinate CDG collaborators Adalberto Patiño Pareja and John Alexander Vélez were also arrested at the time. Vieda was captured in Cali, Colombia, while the other two were apprehended in Popayán and Madrid, near Bogotá. The Directorate of Intelligence (Dirección de Inteligencia) directed the raids in the three cities, while the National Police executed the operations.
Authorities believe that Vieda was in charge of the South American operations of the CDG, a role he assumed after the capture of Juan Manuel García in Costa Rica on July 5, 2012. Vieda then oversaw the movement of cocaine by land in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama. Along Vieda’s route, authorities believe that the CDG transported shipments of cocaine hydro-chloride that averaged 500 kilograms per shipment. Vieda also sent drugs to the United States, as well as Africa, Argentina, Chile, the Netherlands, Peru, and Spain. CDG affiliates Patiño and Vélez also played important roles, as Patiño facilitated drug transportation and Vélez managed CDG finances in the region South American region.
Authorities began looking into this branch of the CDG in 2010, however a concerted effort to consolidate these investigations did not arise until the 22nd Conference of the International Anti-Narcotic Network (Red Internacional Antinarcóticos, RIAN), which was held last year in Miami, Florida. Colombian authorities gained traction in the investigation of Vieda after documenting at least 14 of his trips to Panama, which preceded a raid in which they confiscated trucks of his concealing two tons of drugs hidden in the tires and other compartments of the vehicles. During the apprehensions, the National Police confiscated 700,000 euros (just over $900 million USD) allegedly hidden by Vélez.
These arrests of Vieda, Patiño, and Vélez tie in to several important arrests of CDG members in the past month, including former cartel leaders Mario Cárdenas Guillén and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, also known as “El Coss.” Authorities recently captured Cárdenas on September 3, and El Coss on September 13.