Washington Edison Prado (aka: “Pablo Escobar of Ecuador”, Gerald)
A suspected drug chief known as the “Pablo Escobar of Ecuador” was extradited to the US on Saturday, Colombia’s chief prosecutor’s office has announced.
Washington Edison Prado tried unsuccessfully to prevent extradition by claiming membership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) a status that would have made him eligible for a type of amnesty under a peace deal.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Prado was escorted by a detail of 50 commandos and agents of various police agencies as he was turned over to US authorities.
US officials accuse Prado, also known by the alias Gerald, of shipping more than 200 tonnes of cocaine to the US.
Police say he ran the most sophisticated smuggling route on the Pacific coast of South America, and they compared it to Escobar’s Medellín cartel of three decades ago because it sought to dominate the entire cocaine supply chain from production to its distribution in the US.
Police say his group sent as many as 10 go-fast boats a week, each carrying around a tonne of cocaine.
He allegedly began as a boatman running drugs along Ecuador’s coast and rose to become head of a small army of smugglers spread across five countries. Prado was arrested in Colombia in April on an indictment by a Florida federal court.
BACKGROUND: The “ Pablo Escobar “ of Ecuador Extradited to the US
Ecuador’s Interior Minister , Cesar Navas, released a statement today acknowledging and warning that International DTO’s and especially Mexican drug traffickers have strengthened ties with Ecuadorian mafias. He affirms that his nation is being used for the “Transit” of drugs destined for Central and North America.
A man accused of smuggling more than 250 tons of cocaine over the past 10 years, Washington Prada Alava ,”Gerald”, an Ecuadorean national, was a drug lord with operations across the Americas and strong ties to Mexican DTO’s and international DTO’s.
During the interview, Cesar Navas also confirmed that the Jan 27, 2018 attack on an Ecuadorian Police Station and/or Border Facility was a first of its kind and Ecuador is considering it a ” Terrorist Attack”. The car bomb nearly destroyed The Border Facility and the entire surrounding neighborhood.
Almost 600 Kilos of cocaine were seized in the border Municipality of Manage and officials theorize the car bombing was a revenge attack. Cesar Navas went on to say that Colombians, Ecuadorians and Mexicans were imprisoned over the incident.
The Interior Minister also added that Ecuador itself does not have much drug production but Mexican
Cartel operations in Colombia has increased considerably in recent years and they are utilizing the Ecuador /Colombian border to their advantage for shipping large quantities of cocaine northward via Maritime routes from the Ecuadorian coastline.
“Gerald” Prado Álava was known in Colombia as Ecuador’s Pablo Escobar, the infamous Medellín Cartel leader killed in 1993. Mr Prado Álava was arrested in April 2017 as he supposedly travelled to “visit family” in the Colombian city of Cali.
He is also accused of ordering the murders of judges, prosecutors and police officers in Ecuador.
In Colombia, he tried to join the ranks of the FARC leftist rebel group before it signed a peace agreement in 2016. The Colombian prosecutors say his intention was to take advantage of a transitional justice system, which was agreed between the government and the FARC to deal with crimes committed by the rebels during five decades of conflict.
Prado’s case points to the FARC’s complex ties with the drug trade, which at times can blur the lines between a guerrilla fighter and a trafficker. Indeed, it is interesting that Prado’s FARC membership claims are linked to Daniel Aldana Mobile Column, formerly one of the FARC’s most powerful structures.
The Prado case also shows the difficult position in which the FARC have found themselves with respect to the peace agreement. As pointed out by El Tiempo, declaring the Ecuadorean capo as a member of the guerrilla group would mean taking responsibility for the 250 metric tons of cocaine he allegedly shipped, a problematic admission of guilt for an organization that maintains its involvement in the drug trade stayed inside Colombian borders.
Washington Prado Alava, who was dubbed the “Pablo Escobar” of Ecuador after his arrest in Colombia earlier this year, failed in his attempt to block his extradition to the United States in Colombia’s Supreme Court by claiming he is a member of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia , the FARC, El Tiempo reported on September 16.
The peace deal signed with the FARC last year promised members of the group they would not be extradited. Prado’s claim to FARC membership is reportedly based on a letter confirming him as such, which was signed by Gustavo González, alias “Rambo,” the former head of the FARC’s Daniel Aldana Mobile Column. Prado’s lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to call on González to confirm the claims.
“Washington Prado Álava is considered one of the biggest capos/ bosses of international DTO’s in recent years and became a top target for the United States,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
“Gerald” Prado Álava allegedly operated in Ecuador and on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Prosecutors said his fleet of speedboats was used to make regular cocaine deliveries to Central America and Mexico, and, from there, the drugs were shipped over the border into the US and Europe.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency provided the Colombian authorities with key intelligence that led to his arrest and that of three other alleged gang members.
On Saturday, he was taken from a prison where he was being held in the capital, Bogotá, and put on a plane to face justice in the US.
Fifty agents took part in the extradition operation, Colombian authorities said.
The Back Story:
This is “Gerald’s” story: known as the new Pablo Escobar this man has been sent to the USA.
The case of Washington Prado Álava is unusual and very striking. A rags to riches story. Although he was known by the alias of ”Gerald”, what he did leaves no doubt that he can be considered the Pablo Escobar of recent times.
At only 35 years of age “Gerald” became a true capo that created a structure similar in all respects to that of the late Medellín cartel. In the last two years, it has managed to transport 250 tons of cocaine from the Pacific to Central America and the United States. Another 150 tons were confiscated in that period.
A Capo of Capos:
”Gerald” owned a score of boats and several dozen speedboats, known as launches rapidas, ”go fast boats “, which he used to transport the drugs. In his mother’s house authorities found a sophisticated stash of $12 million dollars in cash; a similar figure was found in other hiding places. He had numerous assassins in charge of eliminating his rivals, as well as murdering and threatening policemen, prosecutors and judges.
From Lanchero ( boatman/ fisherman) to Narco:
All this emperium came to an abrupt end last April when he was arrested after an operation of a special group of investigations (SIU) of the Direction of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (Dijín) of Colombia, the Office of the public prosecutor, the Ecuadorian Police and the US DEA .
The history of the Ecuadorian “Escobar” mafia began in 2004. By that time “Gerald” was a seasoned boatman in Manta. His ability to navigate the difficult waters of the Pacific Ocean caused the Los Rastrojos group and the Comba brothers, from the Norte del Valle cartel, to notice and pick him out to transport drugs. From the neighboring country of Ecuador he arrived to Tumaco, Colombia and other areas of Nariño and left with shipments to Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. For each delivered trip “Gerald ” earned $ 50,000.
Six years later, by 2010, most of the members of Los Rastrojos were captured and several were extradited. In 2012, Javier Calle, chief of the Combas, surrendered to the US authorities. By that time, the Ecuadorian had gained enough confidence that allowed him to learn all the details of the business. He knew where they were and who owned the crops. He also knew the owners of the laboratories and all the groups that sold the drug in western Colombia. He also knew who the buyers were in several countries in Central America and the drug lords in Mexico, especially those in the Sinaloa cartel.
”Gerald” got the growers, producers and sellers to work for him. He even convinced the Mexican drug lords to allow him to keep several routes from Colombia and deliver them to the coasts of Mexico. In Ecuador, he bought more than a dozen large fishing boats. He made and adapted several dozen ”go fast boats” with fiberglass covers to make them more aerodynamic, fast and difficult to detect from the air.
The fisherman located the fishing boats in the open sea and loaded with fuel they became remote floating refueling stops on the high seas. The ”go fast boats” stocked up and continued their journey northward out of radar range of the anti-drug vessels. From Tumaco, Colombia and its surroundings he dispatched weekly between 10 and 12 of these boats each one loaded with 800 to 1,000 kilos of drugs, primarily cocaine. Apart from his own business, he occasionally provided transportation services for other drug traffickers, charging them $ 2,000 for each kilo that he carried to Costa Rica or Guatemala.
That mafioso monopoly he created on the shores of Nariño made him an extremely wealthy man in a very short time. Part of their profits were used to swell the ranks of gunmen in Tumaco and in the Central American countries where the drug was transported to and delivered. He bought luxurious properties in Guayaquil, Ecuador for himself and his family and began to attract the attention of local authorities.
In Tumaco his story was well known. There he pretended to be a prosperous fishing businessman who was escorted in luxurious armored trucks. Two years ago he entered the stage of the US DEA radar, and they considered him one of their main objectives because of the immense quantity of drugs that entered the United States often if not usually transported by his operation.
That agency alerted the special group of the Colombian Dijin about this capo, unknown until his moment in Colombia. Undercover agents of this DEA unit were sent and began to investigate the activities of the Ecuadorian cartel. In the last two years they managed to confiscate 150 tons of drugs in different operations and about 80 members of his structure were arrested.
The failed escape:
The DEA actions alerted the Ecuadorian drug lord, for it was evident that the Colombian authorities were behind him. That’s when he decided to return to his own country of Ecuador. Although he had several preliminary processes in play, he could be calm, especially because he knew that Ecuador has a policy of not extraditing its citizens to the United States.
It was then when the Colombian authorities contacted the Ecuadorian Police and with their collaboration began to monitor him. Since the objective was to capture him in order to extradite him to the United States, the challenge was to get the capo to return to Colombia.
With the help of the Ecuadorians, the SIU of the Dijín sent an attractive female covert officer to Ecuador. Using the facade of being from Cali looking for new opportunities, the agent began to frequent the gym and the places where the Ecuadorian capo was frequenting.
After several weeks she managed to get his attention. Dazzled with it, he approached her and they began to establish a friendship relationship. After several months she told him that she should return to Cali because of a family issue. Over the months she finally convinced him to visit her.
The capo entered Colombia illegally by Ipiales. In an armored van, driven by his escort/ bodyguard, he called his friend to tell them where he was going. A few kilometers ahead, a Colombian police checkpoint was waiting for him.
Today Washington Prado Avala has been extradited.
”Gerald”, ”Guacho”, and other Narcos:
On the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, there are three armed actors that control and regulate the drug trafficking market: The main one, ”Guacho” or a former guerrilla of the FARC; ”Contador”, member of the Gulf Clan and one called ”Narco Puro Cachi”. Los Rastrojos and Los Combos help stir the pot.
Another man named “Santiago” also from the FARC heads a group called JJ who are financed by the Sinaloa Cartel. They maintain disputes between rivals, carry out murders so that the Sinaloa can continue with their extortions, illegal mining and narco trafficking.
Colombia itself has regained some composure since the terribly violent real Pablo Escobar era of the 80’s and 90’s by disarticulating the criminal and financial structures of Colombian organizations. The Mexicans cartels were basically “employees” of the powerful Medellin and Cali Cartels.
In the past five years the powerful Mexican Cartels have filled the vacuum quickly, waves of Mexicans are flooding into various regions in Colombia and are even controlling coca production and processing labs. They are now also controlling the trafficking routes and are simply avoiding intermediaries increasing their profit margins immensely.
While the presence of Mexican Cartels grow in Colombia, which includes remnants of Zetas, Golfo and CJNG, the powerful and buoyant Sinaloans are most prominent. Carlos Negret claims that the Sinaloa Cartel has a major presence in 57 countries around the world. With 14 Mexican criminal organizations with ties to Colombia, it is the Sinaloans who are making permanent holdings in Colombia, its men opting to stay in Colombia rather than return to Mexico. They also immediately connected with Farc guerrillas who did not join the Colombian Peace process, thereby swelling their ranks with gunmen who already had local connections.
Almost all of them, in turn, depended in a some way on Washington Prado Álava, alias ”Gerald”, who until recently handled most of the operations of drug traffickers in the Pacific.
Last year the US, Mexico and Colombia announced a plan to coordinate their anti narcotics trafficking strategies and share information.