MEDELLÍN, Colombia - Lucho Cessna thought it was just going to be about the sex. That is, after all, what he paid for during his business trips to Bogotá, Colombia. Long, sultry sessions. No commitment.
But one of the girls that the alleged Guatemalan drug boss turned to was working undercover with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, (DEA) and Colombian police.
And a joint sting operation this month between the DEA and Colombia’s anti-narcotics police showed more than just the details of Luis Arturo Ramírez Diéguez, alias Lucho Cessna’s, ambitious sex life and the lengths undercover American intelligence agents will go to in the line of duty.
Colombia’s national police say the Guatemalan drug-trafficker was in Bogotá brokering cocaine shipments from western Venezuela to Guatemala between Mexican criminals and former members of the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
Cessna is alleged to manage a fleet of small, single-engine airplanes that would take off from northern Brazil, land on remote airstrips in Venezuela, pick up the coke, and then cross the Caribbean. Cocaine, offloaded in Guatemala, would eventually be intercepted by members of Mexico’s ever-expanding Jalisco New Generation Cartel, most of it destined for the United States.
“Lucho Cessna was captured as he tried to return to Guatemala,” said Colombia’s anti-narcotics police chief Hernán Alejandro Bustamante Jiménez.
About one out of every three lines of Colombian cocaine sniffed in the US and Europe gets transported through and out of Venezuela by air, according to the DEA. The rest flows by speed boats, home-made submarines and human mules.
Cessna was negotiating with a surprising new criminal organization run by two former commanders of Colombia’s most notorious rebel group, the FARC.
For years, the FARC and other organized crime groups operated along the Colombia-Venezuela border. But in 2012, Colombia started peace talks with the guerrillas and in 2016, then-president Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace accord with the rebels. Many fighters laid down their arms and top leaders formed a political party.
But not all members of the FARC laid down their arms and walked out of the jungle.
“Colombia’s current President Iván Duque didn’t like some features of the deal and I think the FARC reacted negatively to that,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA.
Duque promised to change the peace deal, and not all of the commanders liked the sounds of that. Two former high-ranking members - 65-year-old, bushy-haired Iván Marquez and 53-year-old Jesús Santrich - abandoned the accord and crossed into Venezuela. Other fighters fed up with the process joined them. In 2019, Marquez and Santrich went on television and declared the formation of a new rebel movement called Segundo Marquetalia.
Lucho Cessna was allegedly the former commanders’ main operator for connecting their coke shipments with the Mexicans, said the anti-narcotics division of Colombia’s national police.
“A lot of the FARC had tasted wealth and didn’t necessarily like the idea of returning to civil society. So they deserted the peace process and formed dissident groups. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, gives them a safe haven on the Venezuela side. Now they’re back in business,” said Vigil.
Around 20 percent of the FARC’s original fighters are believed to have broken off and formed dissident groups. This ex-FARC mafia competes with Colombia’s fractured landscape of other organized crime bosses and gangs, all of whom profit off the international cocaine trade.
President Duque met with security forces shortly after the sting. In a fit of military enthusiasm, he growled at the soldiers, “this is the year we’re going to destroy Narcotalia,” a reference to the Segundo Marquetalia’s alleged drug trafficking.
If Duque does turn up the heat on Segundo Marquetalia’s drug game, it will be an operation that now has much more legitimacy than before - all thanks to top secret sex work.