The United States Government announced on Monday a reward of five million dollars for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Colombian Wilmer Villegas-Palomino, a “senior leader” of the National Liberation Army (ELN). The State Department said in a statement that Palomino, alias Carlos Puerco, and five other members of the last active guerrilla in Colombia have been indicted in Texas for narco-terrorism, one count of conspiracy for the international distribution of cocaine and one count of international distribution of cocaine.
Efforts to arrest the six members of the ELN, including the federal criminal charges against Villegas-Palomino, “reaffirm our commitment to dismantle and dismantle this narco-terrorist group,” said prosecutor Willliam Barr in the statement. The Administration for the Control of Drugs (DEA) maintains that for decades the ELN has produced and exported tons of cocaine to the United States, using communities in the country to finance its terrorist activities.The Department of State officially designated the ELN as a foreign terrorist organization 23 years ago.
Colombian authorities have already arrested three of the six defendants in mid-February in a Houston court. The alleged leader of the ELN, Villegas-Palomino, 38, Jaime Miguel Picón-Rodríguez, alias, is considered fugitive Chencho and Jairo, 38, and Diomedes Barbosa-Montaño alias Donkey, 38. A court order for their arrests is pending. “Colombia is an excellent partner for law enforcement,” said US Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. “With major cities acting as drug trafficking hubs, the Southern District of Texas is uniquely located to continue prosecuting these cases and to work with our Colombian colleagues,” he added.
Since the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program (NRP) was created in 1986, more than 75 drug lords have been brought to justice and Washington has disbursed more than 130 million in rewards for information leading to these arrests. according to data compiled by EFE. “These actions demonstrate the State Department’s commitment to supporting law enforcement efforts and an entire government approach to combat drug trafficking and transnational organized crime,” the statement said.