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El Loco

Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco,” is the closest thing Colombia has to a present-day Pablo Escobar. He uses a vast network of collaborators, from former paramilitaries to leftist guerrillas, to move cocaine from the country’s Eastern Plains to the United States.

Barrera has been trafficking drugs since he and his brother Omar began moving chemical substances for the processing of cocaine in his home state of Guaviare in the 1980s. Since emerging as a middleman in his own right, Barrera has skillfully played the role of mediator, coordinating the purchase of coca base from areas controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the sale of processed cocaine to groups ranging from 
paramilitary organizations to the now defunct Norte del Valle Cartel.

These days, he is allied with remnants of former paramilitary and drug trafficking groups, most notably the Rastrojos and the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (Ejercito Revolucionario Popular Antiterrorista Colombiano – ERPAC).

His principal areas of operation are the Eastern Plains departments and Venezuela, where he plays the role as go-between for the FARC and international drug trafficking groups, and sells much of his product to the European market. However, he and his allies operate throughout Colombia and abroad. In March 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department named him one of the two biggest drug traffickers in Colombia. A U.S. court indicted him in September 2011.

According to Colombian and foreign counternarcotics officials, Barrera operates in the Eastern Plains, principally the departments of Meta, Vichada, Casanare and Guaviare. He also controls strategic parts of Colombia’s capital, Bogota, and has consolidated staging areas in the Apure state of Venezuela from which he can dispatch aircraft full of drugs to the Caribbean and Central America. Barrera himself is alleged to operate in the Vichada department of Colombia and in parts of Venezuela, 
where he allegedly has the protection of local officials. Barrera also uses Venezuela as a storage and staging point to send 
drugs to Europe. He has often made West Africa a transit point, and has greatly destabilized the region in the process.

Barrera is currently one of the largest drug traffickers in Colombia. But he has several strikes against him. He is well-known.
He has many tenuous alliances. He has started a feud with one of the oldest and most venerable underworld figures in Colombia,
Victor Carranza. The Carranza battle may make life very difficult for him and his allies, especially the ERPAC. Following the 
death of ERPAC commander Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” the military has upped the pressure in the Eastern Plains, 
where both Barrera and ERPAC do much of their business. In order to survive long term, Barrera may need to develop a plan that 
includes rather than excludes Carranza, and that could mean turning on his longtime partners in the ERPAC.

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