Colombias legendary police chief heads to Mexico

center_img Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Naranjo graduated first in his class at the police academy and, when his father retired in 1983, went into intelligence work.That’s when his education began to get especially dangerous.Medellin cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar would soon emerge as an existential threat to the state. In Escobar’s fight against the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States, he waged all-out war, including targeted assassinations and indiscriminate bombings of civilians.In 1989, after Naranjo escorted out of the country his first “extraditable,” an Escobar money-launderer, the long reach of drug cartels touched him personally.“When I returned to Bogota the next day,” he recalled, “I found my wife had to move because a funeral wreath was delivered to the small apartment where we lived that said: `Maj. Naranjo, Rest in Peace.’”The Medellin cartel put a $5,000 bounty on his head. Escobar offered smaller bounties for rank-and-file policemen. About 500 were killed in Medellin alone in the worst year.In 1991, Escobar surrendered and entered a custom-built prison he’d helped design. A few months later, he was a fugitive again.Naranjo, who had moved to Buenos Aires, was brought back to Colombia and named intelligence chief of the “Bloque de Busqueda,” a special force formed to hunt down the arch criminal. He gave weekly briefings to a group led by the defense minister that included the top CIA and DEA officers in Colombia. And he designed the clandestine operation that led to Escobar’s killing in December 1993. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates How men can have a healthy 2019 Quick workouts for men Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of No one questions Naranjo’s effectiveness against drug traffickers and leftist rebels, but analysts say Colombia’s police under Naranjo have achieved far less on other fronts.Kidnapping and murder are down dramatically, but criminal bands continue to thrive in the provinces, running drugs, extorting, “taxing” illegal gold mining. Colombia also remains the world’s most deadly nation for trade union organizers.“The strategy of going after high-value targets has its limits,” said Maria Victoria Llorente, director of the Bogota think tank Fundacion Ideas para La Paz. “You capture the capos, but they have a great capacity for regeneration.”That’s one reason drug decriminalization has a growing number of proponents in Latin America.Naranjo is not among them, and his personal experience can’t help but influence his thinking.“Drug trafficking is good at transforming values into anti-values,” he says, “and ends up enslaving societies.”___Frank Bajak on Twitter:

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