Venezuela deports paramilitary warlord to Colombia

February 9, 2012 - 7:35 PM
Venezuela Colombia Drugs

Colombia's Hector Buitrago, aka "Martin Llanos", is escorted by National Guard officers during his deportation to Colombia at the Simon Bolivar airport in Maiquetia, near Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Buitrago was captured last Feb 4, along with his brother Nelson Buitrago in Venezuela's eastern town of El Tigre. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela turned over a prominent Colombian paramilitary warlord to Colombian authorities on Thursday.

Hector Buitrago, who is widely known as "Martin Llanos," was handed over to Colombian authorities at Caracas' international airport along with his brother, Nelson Buitrago, known as "Caballo."

They were captured on Saturday at a shopping center in the eastern Venezuelan town of El Tigre. The two are wanted on various charges including murder and drug trafficking.

Hector Buitrago, 44, is accused of unleashing a bloody war against rivals in 2003 in Colombia's eastern plains. About 1,000 combatants were killed and hundreds of people were displaced in the fighting.

In addition to murder and drug trafficking charges, Buitrago also faces charges of terrorism, torture and kidnapping.

His younger brother, 41-year-old Nelson Buitrago, has been sentenced in absentia to 38 years in prison for the 1997 killings of 11 judicial investigators in southeastern Meta state.

The brothers are accused of belonging to a right-wing paramilitary faction involved in drug trafficking.

Colombian authorities have said the brothers were in Venezuela for more than a year.

Gen. Oscar Naranjo, Colombia's national police director, said earlier this week that the two had left Colombia about five years ago and had moved between various countries, including Bolivia and Venezuela.

Colombian authorities have said the two were found in Venezuela by following the movements of relatives and members of their paramilitary group. Colombian officials had asked for assistance from Venezuela's National Anti-drug Office, which captured the men.

Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami announced the deportations at the airport and praised recent counter-drug cooperation with Colombian authorities.

The two were handed over along with a third man, Lebanese citizen Bachir Muhieddine Elghandour, who according to authorities used the alias Jhonathan Diaz Chacon. He was detained in Caracas in December and was wanted in Colombia for aggravated larceny, Venezuelan prosecutors said in a statement.

(This version CORRECTS that third suspect is Lebanese, not Colombian, and that charge against him is aggravated larceny.)