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Venezuela nabs Colombian cartel leader Maximiliano Bonilla, a.k.a. 'Valenciano'

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Ariana Cubillos/AP

(Read caption) Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez smile as they hold up documents after signing agreements in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday. Colombian authorities say one of the country's most-wanted drug traffickers has been captured in Venezuela. The US government had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Maximiliano Bonilla, best known as 'Valenciano.'

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Venezuela has captured one of Colombia's top drug traffickers, just as President Juan Manuel Santos visited his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas, an arrest that may have profound implications for the Colombian underworld.

Maximiliano Bonilla, alias 'Valenciano,' was one of Colombia's most powerful and prolific drug traffickers, running a criminal empire in the city of Medellin and along the Caribbean Coast. He headed a series of criminal organizations, including factions of the 'Oficina de Envigado' in Medellin and the 'Paisas' along the coast, from their operating base in the city of Barranquilla.

It was not a coincidence that he was arrested on the eve of the meeting in Venezuela between Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chavez.  An intelligence source told InSight Crime that the Colombian police intelligence, DIPOL, had been following members of Mr. Bonilla's family for two years, and had pinpointed his movements, feeding the information to the Venezuelan authorities to secure the arrest on Sunday night to highlight the increasing cooperation between the two nations.  Despite having a security detail of 15 triggermen, all with Venezuelan IDs like himself, Bonilla came without a fight in the Venezuelan city of Maracay in Aragua state on the Caribbean Coast.


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