- - Monday, November 28, 2011

VENEZUELA

Authorities capture top drug trafficker

CARACAS — A top Colombian drug trafficker reputedly responsible for shipping tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico has been captured in Venezuela, officials said Monday.

The U.S. had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, also known as “Valenciano,” who was also on Colombia’s most-wanted list.

Colombian authorities told the Associated Press that Mr. Bonilla was captured Sunday. The information was confirmed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was in Venezuela meeting with President Hugo Chavez.

“He’s one of the most recognized drug traffickers, who has caused terrible damage to our country,” Mr. Santos told Mr. Chavez at the presidential palace, saying Mr. Bonilla’s capture “had become truly a very high-value objective” for Colombian authorities.

“We know that your people, your authorities … were after this individual for some time, and look how God is on our side, the coincidence that last night you captured him and today we can give this magnificent news,” Mr. Santos said.

“This is a very good welcome gift,” Mr. Santos told Mr. Chavez.

The Venezuelan leader called the arrest “a happy coincidence.”

Both presidents said it was an example of increased cooperation between their authorities.

It wasn’t immediately clear how authorities tracked down Mr. Bonilla.

Mr. Chavez said he was captured in the central city of Valencia, while Colombian prosecutors said the arrest was made in the nearby city of Maracay.

Mr. Chavez said Mr. Bonilla was being brought to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and would then be handed over to Colombia.

U.S. officials accuse Mr. Bonilla of sending tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico, dealing extensively with Mexico’s violent Zetas drug cartel.

Mr. Bonilla, 39, is the reputed leader of a Medellin-based criminal organization dating back to the 1980s that once recruited hit men for cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

GUYANA

Guyanese vote in general elections

GEORGETOWN — Voters in Guyana went to the polls Monday in general elections expected to return to power the incumbent People’s Progressive Party-Civic, which has led the former British colony since 1992.

Police Commissioner Henry Greene said no reports of violence or arrests were connected to voting across the country of 750,000, on the northern coast of South America.

Steve Surujbally, chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, said at a news conference that polling was generally peaceful and disciplined.

“Generally speaking, we have had no reports of negativity that would be insurmountable,” he said.

The candidate of the ruling party, which represents the country’s Indian majority, is Donald Ramotar, who is expected to succeed outgoing President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is limited to two terms.

Mr. Ramotar, 61, aims to capitalize on his predecessor’s strong economic record, which was backed by social policies that gave priority to housing, education, health and infrastructure development, notably electric power generation.

COLOMBIA

Guerrilla captor survived by running the other way

BOGOTA — The Colombian police sergeant who saved himself when leftist rebels killed his four companions said he survived by running away from the guerrillas while the others ran toward them.

Luis Alberto Erazo said the commander of his guerrilla captors had told the five captives that if government troops surprised the group the rebels would protect them.

But when a firefight broke out nearby Saturday, Sgt. Erazo turned and ran for the jungle.

Colombian officials said the other four captives were executed, three with shots to the head, the fourth with shots to the back.

Sgt. Erazo, 48, spoke in a radio interview Monday from a police hospital in the capital of Bogota where he is recovering.

Sgt. Erazo had been held captive for 12 years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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