Wilber Alirio Varela, former head of the "sicarios" assassination squads for the Cali Cartel, most recently the head of the "Norte del Valle" cartel, a man known as "Jabon" ("Soap") because he was what the cartel used to "clean" situations, was himself assassinated this week. Varela had been hiding out in Merida, Venezuela – a town that I remember well, since it's just across the border from Colombia, and is the jumping-off point for all my adventures here in Colombia 20 years ago.
Jabon had been running a group of deranged hitmen known as "Rastrojos," ("Eye-clawers") who were conducting an ongoing war in the streets of Cali and elsewhere in Colombia against "Los Machos," who are the forces of Don Diego Montoya. The war has left more than 1,000 people dead. So many people were murdered and chucked into the rivers that one of the cities downstream went bankrupt from the cost of fishing all the bodies out and doing autopsies on them. Most of the guys in Los Machos turned out to be ex-soldiers, BTW, so it appears that Colombia's post-Army pension and health care plan sucks even worse that the U.S.
The Norte del Valle cartel is now up for grabs, and the papers here say that it's going to be a 3-way cage match between guys with nicknames like "El Iguana," "El hombre con camisa roja," and "Capachivo." I don't think they're going to settle this one via rock-paper-scissors. Well, unless the whole game actually involves using said implements in really unpleasant ways. Meanwhile, back in Cali, the cops are saying that they think that the next narco to step up to the big leagues will be Daniel "El Loco" Barrera. He's one of the guys that's using the increasingly permeable border with Venezuela, and the ease of bribing Chavez's goons, to move a lot of product out of there on the oil tankers and coal barges.
Seriously. That's the way that they say a lot of the coke is getting shipped these days. It's being grown on the llanos by small, indie operators (much like globalization, the big players have divested themselves of the time, expense and risk of working in raw materials production by laying that all off on the little guys). Refined in the still-risky junglemountains of the Oriente, and then stuffing into barrels or coal carts or whatever. There's some kind of sick irony that Western Civilization's addiction to fossil fuels runs concomitant with its addiction to the coca alkaloids, and that the two are being mainlined in some freaky "two for one" deal on these leaky Liberian-flagged tankers.
Plus, you just gotta give it up for anyone who's so sick-ass dark&twisted that the other guys in the murderous cocaine cartel stick him with the nickname "El Loco."
UPDATE: The killer of the last big old-school narco-emperor was an assassin named "The Singer" who killed Jabon and his bodyguard, a fat sadist nicknamed "The Greasy One." And perhaps the bookies should lay off some of the bets on El Loco, since Capachivo just made a statement by committing a massacre of police, soldiers and suspected informants by napalming a safe house in the little village of Jamundi.