For years, the criminal best known as Megateo had lorded over northeastern Colombia running drugs, shaking down landowners and laying down his law with the barrel of a gun.
On Friday, after years of failed attempts, the guerrilla-turned-bandit who’s real name is Victor Ramon Navarro, was killed deep in his rural redoubt.
“We’ve been after him for a very long time,” President Juan Manuel Santos announced Friday. “I don’t know how many times we’ve tried to catch him and he’s always escaped, but he’s finally fallen.”
The police said Navarro had been killed in combat Thursday night in the community of Hacaraí, in North Santander department, near the Venezuelan border. Four other gang members were killed and one was injured in the raid carried out by the police, army and air force, authorities said.
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Navarro had been among Colombia’s most-wanted, and was facing up to 40 years in prison on charges of murder, forced displacement, rebellion, kidnapping and extortion. He was also wanted in Florida federal court for money laundering and drug trafficking.
Navarro was one of the most brutal and colorful drug lords of the Colombian outback. He began his career as a leftist rebel with the Popular Liberation Army, or EPL, which was founded in 1969. In 1991, when the group began negotiations to demobilize, Navarro was part of a breakaway faction that refused to lay down their weapons. He was only 15 at the time, according to police.
Throughout his criminal career, Navarro maintained that he was still a leftist guerrilla fighting under the the banner of the EPL. But the government had long-ago written him off as an apolitical drug trafficker.
“He tried to pass himself off as a guerrilla but he was really just a common criminal,” Santos said.
Local media said he had a fondness for diamond-encrusted gold chains, fancy cars and young girls. But he was also known for being a brutally effective fighter. In 2006, Navarro and his men killed 10 detectives and seven members of the special forces during an ambush.
The news came just days after the government announced they had killed Martín Farfán Díaz González, known as “Pijarbey,” who was a kingpin in central Colombia facing charges of murder and drug trafficking.
Santos said both men were “at the very top” of the nation’s most wanted list and he said the military would keep up its efforts to bring down other gang leaders.
“Criminals will either submit to justice,” he wrote on Twitter, “or end up beneath the earth.”