BOGOTA, May 2- Colombian police captured drug
lord Miguel Angel Mejia on Friday, days after killing his twin
brother in a shootout as authorities crack down on cocaine
smuggling rings run by former right-wing paramilitaries.
Mejia was found in a secret air-conditioned compartment in
the cab of a tractor trailer with a pistol at his side, but he
gave up without a fight.
He and his brother Victor Manuel were paramilitary militia
leaders who helped negotiate a peace deal with the government
but refused to turn themselves after the talks.
Instead, they went on to head Colombia's biggest emerging
cocaine gang and were wanted in the United States for drug
trafficking, with the U.S. government offering up to $5 million
each for information leading to their capture.
"The twins controlled and coordinated half of the country's
criminal groups. This strikes at the heart of drug trafficking
in Colombia," said Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos.
Mejia will be extradited to the United States, Santos
Police found Mejia as he was being driven in the commercial
truck through the central province of Tolima.
Officers said they noticed the driver bought four bottles
of Gatorade and some snacks at a truck stop near the town of
Honda. Minutes later at a police checkpoint, officers noticed
the drinks and snacks were no longer in the driver's cabin.
"This raised suspicions," Santos said.
Police became more curious when the driver asked to keep
the engine running, a bid to keep oxygen flowing to Mejia in
his compartment hidden behind the driver's seat and outfitted
with a bed and refrigerator.
"Congratulations," officers said he told them. "You won."
Mejia, 48, wore a Catholic medallion around his neck with a
hidden compartment holding a master key for opening handcuffs,
Santos said, showing the key to reporters. Television showed an
unshaven and disheveled Mejia under guard.
His brother was shot dead by police on Tuesday.
Most other paramilitary chiefs handed in their guns over
the last four years and are in jail. But the government admits
that thousands of one-time militia fighters have joined a new
generation of gangs funded by cocaine and extortion.
The "paras" were formed in the 1980s to help drug
smugglers, cattle ranchers and other rich Colombians beat back
leftist rebels who are still fighting the state in the name of
The United States has given Colombia about $5.5 billion in
aid over the last seven years aimed at combating the drug trade
and bolstering security.
Urban crime rates have plummeted and investment is up in
Colombia due to the military push. But cocaine exports from the
Andean country remain steady at more than 600 tonnes per year,
according to the United Nations.
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