Latin America & Caribbean

Police capture Colombia-Mexico 'drug link' Ayala Munoz

Julio Enrique Ayala Munoz (centre)
Mr Ayala is wanted by the US Drugs Enforcement Administration for alleged drug trafficking

Police in Colombia have arrested a man they say is the main link between a Colombian drug gang and one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels.

Julio Enrique Ayala Munoz, also known as The Condor, was arrested outside his home in the south-western city of Cali.

Police accuse Mr Ayala of shipping tonnes of cocaine for the Colombian Comba drug gang to Mexico.

From there, police say, the Mexican Sinaloa cartel would distribute it to the United States.

Gen Carlos Ramiro Mena of the Colombian judicial police said The Condor's capture was a significant blow to international drug trafficking networks.

"This man was in charge of procuring aeroplanes with which to ship large quantities of cocaine," he told reporters.

'Criminal ties'

He said Mr Ayala had two paymasters, the Colombian brothers known as the Comba, and the leader of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

Gen Mena said Mr Ayala had worked his way up through the ranks of drug dealers, eventually becoming an influential player in the cross-border trade.

He is accused of being responsible for a 6.4-tonne shipment of cocaine intercepted by Colombian police last month in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura.

Analysts say Colombian drug gangs have increasingly forged ties with Mexican cartels, who have largely taken over the distribution of drugs in the United States from the Colombian gangs.

Gen Mena said Mr Ayala had managed to escape from a police operation aimed at catching him in 2009 and had been living under a false identity since then.

Colombian police and agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration tracked him down to his home in Cali where he was arrested on Wednesday evening with the help of Interpol.

Police say he owns a number of planes in Colombia, as well as a hacienda, a yacht and an array of luxury cars in Mexico.

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