BOGOTA – After months of being chased by police throughout South America, Colombia’s most wanted drug trafficker was arrested outside a restaurant in Buenos Aires Tuesday night.
Henry de Jesús López, also known as “Mi Sangre,” was accused of shipping tons of the cocaine to the United States through Central America. He was carrying false passports from five different countries and posing as a Venezuelan businessman. According to police, the 41-year-old and a bodyguard were arrested without shots fired in the parking lot of Fettuccine Mario in the Buenos Aires suburb of Pilar where he was expected to have dinner.
National police director José Roberto León said López ran the “Urabenos” gang based in northern Colombia, after rising through the ranks of right-wing paramilitary groups doubling as drug trafficking operations. The group takes its name from the Gulf of Uraba on Colombia’s Caribbean coast where U.S. law enforcement officials say it shipped tons of cocaine northward.
Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni calls López “extremely dangerous” and responsible for “hundreds of deaths.” López entered Argentina with his wife and child late last year and they settled in the gated community of Nordelta, home to many wealthy Argentines. Berni states López’s family had been moving constantly, living under assumed names and being protected by as many as eight bodyguards. López carried false passports from Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela.
A team of Colombian judicial police caught López with the help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a small group of Argentine officials. A Colombian informant who reported López’s location was key to the arrest. Police director León said the informant, whose identity is being protected, will be paid a reward worth $660,000.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos sent a Twitter message overnight thanking his country’s police and Argentine authorities for the arrest. López is accused of organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism. He is also wanted in Colombia and Miami.
“Colombia now effectively has no more ‘capos’ of regional or national reach,” said Colombian retired national police director Oscar Naranjo.
“He was one of the few left in Central and South America at that level,” said a U.S. law enforcement official. “Now you have the second tier.”
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.