16 Apr 2009

Colombia captures top drug lord "Don Mario"

9:09 am on 16 April 2009

Police have captured Colombia's most wanted drug lord, a former paramilitary fighter accused of thousands of murders who once offered his gunmen a $1,000 reward for each policeman they killed.

Daniel Rendon Herrera, 43, alias "Don Mario", was captured in the jungle of northern Antioquia province, where Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said he was hiding under a palm tree and living "virtually like a dog".

Mr Santos said the drug baron is responsible for at least 3,000 murders.

Colombia had offered a $US2 million reward for information leading to the capture of Daniel Rendon Herrera, who is wanted by the United States on drug trafficking charges.

His ruthless style recalled that of Colombia's best-known drug baron Pablo Escobar, who waged war against the state in the 1980s until he was gunned down by security forces on a Medellin rooftop in 1993.

While the government hailed the as a victory for law and order, security analyst Pablo Casas says the country's thriving cocaine trade is unlikely to be disrupted for long.

He says Don Mario's organization is as well structured as any company, where the chief executive can be replaced at any time.