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Colombia drug figure surrenders

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Another reputed leader of the world's biggest cocaine gang surrendered Saturday, the second to turn himself in this month.

Victor Patino, 35, is a former policeman who joined the Cali cartel in the late 1980s and rose to the No.

5 position in the gang, which supplies 80 percent of the world's cocaine.

Patino, thought to be in charge of overseeing cartel assassins, surrendered at a military police base in Bogota. He said he feared for his life and wanted to answer the accusations against him, Defense Minister Fernando Botero said.

By surrendering, Patino is likely to get a substantial reduction in any prison time he would have served. Under Colombian law, drug traffickers get sentence reductions for surrendering, confessing and cooperating in drug cases.

Henry Loaiza, a leader of the Cali drug gang who was thought to be involved in several massacres including a bombing in Medellin that killed 29 people, surrendered June 19.

Ten days earlier, police captured Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, one of the gang's top two leaders.

Patino is said to have led a luxurious life, collecting jewels and moving around in expensive cars. He owns a fleet of fishing boats, which police say he used to smuggle drugs to other countries.

Under pressure from the United States, Colombia has increased pressure on the cartel, raiding hideouts in Cali and offering rewards for the capture of drug kingpins.

U.S. Ambassador Myles Frechette has said Colombian drug cartels are so entrenched that it could take 15 to 20 years to wipe them out.

Mexican trafficker arrested: In Mexico, army troops and federal authorities near Guadalajara arrested one of Mexico's most powerful and violent drug traffickers.

Hector Luis Palma is wanted in connection with the assassination of a Roman Catholic cardinal and the killings of more than two dozen other people. Palma, who because of his light complexion and blond hair is known widely by the nickname "El Guerro" or "Blondie," has been described as one of the most violent leaders of Mexico's strong northern drug gangs.