January 17, 2006
Son of Cali cartel chief surrenders to US agents
By Jason Webb
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - The son of a former head of
Colombia's Cali cocaine cartel, accused of keeping the drug
business going while his father was in jail, has surrendered to
U.S. agents in Panama and been sent to the United States, a
Panamanian official and a relative said on Tuesday.
Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, who was extradited from Colombia to
the United States last March, negotiated his surrender and
turned himself in on Monday, Rodriguez Abadia's cousin Claudia
Rodriguez told Colombia's W radio.
Rodriguez Abadia, a 40-year-old lawyer, was put on a plane
for Miami where he will join his father and uncle Gilberto
Rodriguez Orejuela behind bars, Panama's Justice Minister
Hector Aleman said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami and the Drug
Enforcement Administration declined to comment.
U.S. authorities accuse Rodriguez Abadia of continuing to
run the cartel on behalf of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers
while they were in jail in Colombia in the late 1990s.
The Cali Cartel, which exported up to 80 percent of the
world's cocaine in the early 1990s according to the DEA, is no
longer one of the major forces in the Colombian drug trade,
which has fragmented in recent years.
But Colombian police say Rodriguez Abadia might have
valuable information on the cocaine business's workings and
Kidney problems led him to speed up his hand-over to U.S.
agents, said his cousin Claudia Rodriguez.
"He told us he had been very sick over the past few months
and that made him bring forward the decision. He also has two
small daughters, and so it was time to take a decision after
being a fugitive from justice for almost three years," she
said, confirming he had negotiated with U.S. authorities.
Rodriguez Abadia was one of a new generation of
sophisticated drug lords who avoided the conspicuous
consumption and flashy girlfriends of an earlier age to keep a
low profile and on concentrate on the narcotics business,
Colombian law enforcement agents say.
Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was extradited a few months
before his brother Miguel, in December 2004.
The arrests of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers in Colombia
in 1995 were hailed as a major victory over the drug trade. But
the cocaine business, driven by massive demand especially in
the United States, morphed into a myriad of smaller cartels and
far-right paramilitaries muscled into the trade.
Only very recently has the massive U.S. and Colombian war
against cocaine begun to show results, with the first
indication coming last year that cocaine prices were rising in
the United States -- which could mean the flow of drug to U.S.
shores was ebbing.
The United States has provided Colombia with more than $3
billion in mainly military aid targeted at cocaine since 2000,
with much of the money going on a spraying campaign to
eradicate the coca bushes used to make cocaine.
(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Miami and Elida
Moreno in Panama City)