The Flight and Capture of a Cartel Man - José González Valencia

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The Flight and Capture of a Cartel Man - José González Valencia

José González Valencia is a man of many names.

Among his comrades in the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, one of the most powerful and violent drug cartels in Mexico, he is known as Chepa, Santy, and El Camaron, or the Shrimp.

He is also allegedly a member of the cartel’s finance and money-laundering group, Los Cuinis, named after a fast-breeding Mexican squirrel.

But in Bolivia, where he spent over two years evading justice, he was known as Jafett Arias Becerra, a respectable cattle rancher.

In this guise, the powerful drug lord escaped the notice of authorities in the United States, Mexico, and Bolivia, though the U.S. State Department issued a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture. He obtained a Bolivian identification card, bought land in an exclusive residential complex, and became a successful breeder of Zebu cattle, OCCRP has learned.

González Valencia flew in and out of Bolivia multiple times in 2016 and 2017, raising questions about how it was so easy for him to live comfortably as a wealthy cattleman when he was wanted by the United States on charges of conspiracy to distribute large amounts of cocaine.

Bolivian authorities blame Mexico for the lapse, but also admit their fertile Santa Cruz region, known as “Bolivia’s barn,” is a popular hideout for drug traffickers on the lam. They acknowledge that they need to corral criminals like the Shrimp who find safe haven there.
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