Extraordinary drug dog worries Colombian cartel
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — This is the story of a drug dog with a bounty on its head.
Sombra, a six-year-old German shepherd, has helped Colombia's police detect more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine hidden in suitcases, boats and large shipments of fruit.
But as the dog sniffs her way toward record cocaine interdictions, she has also become the latest target of Colombia's most powerful drug gang.
Colombian police recently revealed the Gulf Clan, a cartel that boasts its own guerrilla army, has offered a reward of $7,000 to whoever kills or captures the savvy hound.
The threat prompted officials to relocate Sombra – whose name in Spanish means Shadow – from a busy port on Colombia's Caribbean coast to the capital city, where she now uses her extraordinary talent to sniff through suspicious cargo at Bogota's El Dorado International Airport.
After her six-hour shift is over, Sombra is transported in a van with tinted windows back to her kennel. She is usually accompanied by two armed guards.
"We are responsible for her safety," said officer Jose Rojas, Sombra's 25-year-old handler.
Sombra's detective work is needed now more than ever as Colombia wrestles with soaring coca production that is testing traditionally close relations with the United States.
A recent White House report found the amount of land where peasants and drug traffickers harvest the plant used to make cocaine rose 11 percent in 2017 to 209,000 hectares (516,450 acres), despite $10 billion in U.S. counter-narcotics work.
"President Trump's message to Colombia is clear: The record growth in cocaine production must be reversed," warned Jim Carroll, deputy director for the drug policy office.