The World Today
Thursday, 16 April , 2009 12:46:00
Reporter: Michael Vincent(This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.)
PETER CAVE: The Colombian Government is celebrating the capture of its country's most wanted man, the drug baron Daniel Rendon.
Rendon, also nicknamed Don Mario, is accused of involvement in several thousand murders as well as the exportation of at least 100 tonnes of cocaine to the United States. There was a $US2-million reward for information leading to his arrest.
But, as Michael Vincent reports, in spite of this high-profile arrest there are fears it will have very little affect on Colombia's thriving cocaine trade.
MICHAEL VINCENT: When Daniel Rendon was captured he was alone, eating rice out of his hands, and hiding under a tree in the jungle.
Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos.
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS (translated): He practically looked like a dog, practically like a dog. He had his arms around a palm tree, and had been there for two days.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Forty-three-year-old Rendon was Colombia's most wanted drug boss. With millions in cash he was rumoured to like wearing a different Rolex every day. His power grew from his links to former right-wing paramilitaries. He even named his criminal organisation 'The Heroes of Castano' in honour of a famous dead colleague.
And Rendon's ruthlessness has been compared to that of Pablo Escobar. He offered his foot soldiers a $US1000 incentive for each policeman they killed in the hope he could evade capture.
Editor of Bogota-based news website Semana.com, Lorenzo Morales.
LORENZO MORALES: Well, according to the police he was responsible for about 3000 homicides in the last year and a half - that gives you a dimension of his power and his ability to create a lot of trouble in the regions he had control. And also, police said that he was responsible for sending around 100 tonnes of cocaine to the US, which means that he will be very probably sent to the US for a trial.
MICHAEL VINCENT: The US Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of intelligence has already said it will seek his extradition.
In Colombia, images of Rendon bearded, disheveled and being driven off to jail in an armoured car have been splashed across television. President Alvaro Uribe, who has been in Brazil, told reporters Rendon's capture was a relief.
ALVARO URIBE (translated): One of the former paramilitary leaders, one of the most feared drug traffickers in the world, has been captured in the Colombian jungle after being chased for many months. We have regained control of the justice monopoly.
MICHAEL VINCENT: But there's scepticism that Rendon's capture will do anything to change the South American nation's vicious drug war. Colombia is still the world's largest cocaine producer and Lorenzo Morales says little has changed since the death of Pablo Escobar.
LORENZO MORALES: Now in Colombia, this big drug trafficking bosses last less than they used to. If you remember Pablo Escobar, of some of the other big bosses, lasted for many years - they were a big trouble. This guy was like the big boss for around, maybe, two years, or something like that.
MICHAEL VINCENT: How would you describe the war on drugs in Colombia at the moment?
LORENZO MORALES: It's an endless war. Personally, I think now is Don Mario, but in a few months we will have another big name, a big fish, who has taken his place.
MICHAEL VINCENT: It's as simple as that.
LORENZO MORALES: Yes. Of course, there is a very strong determination of the Government to capture these people, and of course that makes it harder for them to move easily and make their deals.
But in my opinion, if there is a market there will always be offer, and we have lived with this for 30, 40 years, so I guess every president has to deal with it.
PETER CAVE: The editor of the Bogota-based news website Semana.com, Lorenzo Morales. He was speaking to our reporter Michael Vincent.
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