Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, on Oct. 22 announced the capture of one of the country’s top fugitive crime lords — Marcos de Jesús Figueroa AKA “Marquitos” — in the Brazilian jungle city of Boa Vista. The extraordinary operation was coordinated by police forces in both Colombia and Brazil. “Marquitos” was considered the reigning boss of the lucrative narco-trade in Colombia’s northern region of La Guajira, with access to both the Caribbean Sea and the porous Venezuelan border. He is held responsible for a long reign of terror by criminal gangs and their paramilitary allies in the region — personally culpable in at least 100 deaths, according to authorities. Santos took the apprehension of Marquitos as an opportunity to crow: “With this, we say to criminals that it makes no difference where you are, we are going to catch you.”
But the bust brought to light further claims of three-way collaboration between Colombia’s crime bosses, paramilitaries and “official” politicians — a phenomenon dubbed “para-politics” in the Colombian press. The fall of “Marquitos” brought to Colombia’s headlines claims of his cozy relationship with La Guajira’s political establishment. Wilson de la Rosa Beleño AKA “Chocolate” — a former paramilitary sicario (hitman) in La Guajira who is now cooperating with the authorities — recently testified before La Fiscalía, Colombia’s national prosecutor, that when he was working for the warlord “Pablo Guajiro” in 2006, he had received orders to carry out the assassination of Henry Ustáriz Guerra, the husband of the former mayor of Barrancas, a town in La Guajira. “Chocolate” said he was present at a meeting where the decision for the hit was taken — attended by “Pablo Guajiro,” “Marquitos” and La Guajira’s ex-governor, Juan Francisco “Kiko” Gómez.
The counterinsurgency war in La Guajira over the past 20 years has been a fratricidal one, with the Wayuu indigenous people conscripted into the ranks of both right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas in a bloody struggle for control of the remote region’s narco trade.