The wife and three children of Ecuadorian drug lord José “Fito” Macías were deported today along with four other close friends after Argentine authorities discovered that they had been living in a gated community on the outskirts of Córdoba City since January 5.
The government has canceled their temporary residences and sent them back to Ecuador, according to official sources.
Macías, the fugitive head of criminal group “Los Choneros,” has been identified as one of the masterminds behind the recent wave of violence in the country.
“It is very typical for criminal drug traffickers to do what ‘Fito’ did […] They look for a safe place for their families so they don’t get involved in criminal behavior,” said Security Minister Patricia Bullrich at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
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“A few days ago we were surprised by an extremely dangerous situation in the Republic of Ecuador, where a cartel called ‘Los Choneros,’ whose leader is nicknamed ‘Fito,’ put the Ecuadorian people and government on edge, taking over television networks and universities and killing police and penitentiary officers in prisons,” Bullrich said.
“’Fito’ is the leader of this murderous gang. He escaped from prison on January 8 and, a few days before, on [January] 5, his wife, along with his children and other members of the clan, traveled to Argentina.”
Investigators learned that Fito’s wife — who has been identified by sources with access to the case as Inda Mariela Penarrieta Tuárez — her three children and four other close friends settled in a house they bought last November in the gated community Valle del Golf, in the outskirts of the city of Córdoba, about 15 kilometers from the center.
An anonymous tip was sent to Cordoba’s authorities and Argentine Federal Police detectives, who began to work with Ecuador’s judiciary and Attorney General’s Office for Narco Crime (Procunar), according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The federal and provincial police, together with government authorities, carried out a joint operation to deport the family, with the assistance of Argentine immigration.
During the press conference, Córdoba province’s Security Minister Juan Pablo Quinteros said that the Directorate of Migration enabled the cancellation of Macías’ relatives’ temporary residences, which allowed the police to hold them for deportation.
“We took them to Buenos Aires on a 3 a.m. flight and handed them over to the national authorities at 8 a.m. Fortunately, they are already on Ecuadorian soil,” he explained.
Bullrich reported that the drug trafficker’s family had entered the country several times in September, October, November and January, so she believed the house purchase and the move had been “planned beforehand.”
Macías escaped from the Ecuadorian prison where he was serving a 34-year sentence on January 7. The minister said that “Ecuadorian authorities believe he is in the jungle, but the precedent that his family was here puts us on red alert”.