Like a cocaine-driven Homeric epic, Colombia's long tragic battle with drug cartels has spawned countless heroes and villains. But a character who crosses the country's current narco battlefield, a name that appeals equally to praise and hatred, is actually a six-year-old German Shepard trotted through the country's airports.
Sombra – "Shadow" in English – is a drug detection dog with the Colombian National Police. Her Radar nose has led to more than 200 arrests and the seizure of at least 9 tonnes of illegal drugs in recent years. This success has made the dog a folk hero in a country where bloodshed goes beyond a long tradition of drug violence. The Colombian press even referred to Sombra as "the terror" of drug traffickers.
But Sombra is so good at her job that Colombia's dominant drug crew is taking revenge. You have set a price on the dog's head.
According to the Colombian RCN radio, the police intelligence service has recently learned of the Urabeños' bounty games, also known as the "Gulf Clan" dog, between 20 and 200 million Colombian pesos – or about $ 7,000 and $ 70,000 in the American currency. But the threat is serious enough for the National Police to make additional arrangements for Sombras security.
"The fact that they want to hurt Sombra and offer such a high reward for their capture or death shows the impact they had on their profits." A police spokesman told the Telegraph:
Sombra came to a Colombian prosecution from a kennel in Antioquia, the region of Medellín, the springboard for Colombia's fearsome cartels of the 1980s and 1990s. Equipped with a neon yellow waistcoat, the dog has the task to lift his trained snout in luggage and parcels in Colombia's ports and airports along the Gulf Coast of the country.
RCN Radio reports that their first big bust was in March 2016, when Sombra nased on the way to a container of banana boxes that secretly kept 2,958 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. The program was on its way to Belgium.
In May 2017, Sombra discovered another cargo to Belgium containing 1.1 tonnes of cocaine. Last June, they led the police to an even bigger find – 5.3 tonnes of cocaine, the BBC reported. Later, she discovered 4 tons more secreted in a car parts shipment.
A total of 245 arrests were caused by their busts, Colonel Carlos Fernando Villareal told RCN Radio. Sombra's prosecution efforts have twice earned her the Wilson Quintero Medal, an award for critical contributions to the fight against drug trafficking.
Sombras's achievements have made her the cuddly face of Colombian anti-drug efforts.
She was featured on local television. At airports, the dog is asked to pose selfies with admirers . And the drug police regularly writes about their achievements on Twitter . This month, police used Sombra to summon the alleged notorious head of the Urabeños, a former paramilitary guerilla fighter who became drug trafficker Dairo Antonio Úsuga. In Colombia he is known as "Otoniel".
The dog can handle the celebrity, their owners have said.
"Sombra is a very friendly, quiet dog, and that's why she has no trouble approaching children or people who want to say hello to her," Oscar Favian Solarte, head of the anti-drug department, told El Tiempo. "She's playful, and that's part of her professional development, not just to look for illegal drugs, but to relax as well, after her job is done."
But all this attention has put Sombra in the crosshairs of Urabeños pushed.
Originally a paramilitary force The Urabeños, one of the many armed groups that operate bullets in Colombia's long national struggle, are now the largest criminal organization in the country, controlling a large portion of drug trafficking, according to InSight Crime. The power of the group is consolidated through the acquisition of all rivals and spreads along the Colombian northwest coast. According to InSight, the group is raising money from various criminal activities, such as blackmail, illegal mining and smuggling.
Otoniel remains at large and controls the huge organization.
In response to the reward of Sombras's life, General Jorge Nieto, the head of the National Police, has instructed the dog to transfer to Bogota, El Dorado International Airport, outside the territory of the Urabeños on the coast. According to the Telegraph, more officers will now accompany Sombra on their rounds.
Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.
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