Colombia guard held after drug lord flees through open door

Juan Castro
Juan Castro, better known as “Matamba”

A prison guard has been arrested in Colombia following the escape of gang leader Juan Castro from the maximum-security La Picota jail in Bogotá.

Castro, better known under his alias “Matamba”, escaped in the early hours of Friday and is still on the run.

CCTV footage appears to show him leaving through an open cell door wearing a guard’s uniform.

President Iván Duque said he was outraged by Matamba’s escape and announced a reform of the jail system.

The director of La Picota has been suspended along with more than 50 prison guards who were on shift at the time of Matamba’s escape, according to prosecutor Margarita Cabello.

Guards noticed Matamba was not in his cell during the early morning roll call on Friday.

Surveillance footage released by Colombia’s prison service shows a man they say is Matamba calmly leaving the prison wing through a door left ajar in what looks like a guard’s uniform.

No guards are seen in the footage, only a little dog appears to notice the man leaving.

The guard suspected of handing him the uniform and leaving the door open has been arrested. Prosecutors said he would be charged on Tuesday with aiding a prisoner’s escape.

Matamba had been in jail since May 2021 following his arrest on drugs charges and was wanted for extradition by the United States.

He is accused of running up to 20% of the cocaine shipments from Nariño province, in Colombia’s south-west.

It is not the first time Matamba has broken out of prison, there are at least two previous instances in which he fled, but both times he was recaptured.

In 2018, he went as far as faking his own death while on medical leave from prison to avoid being returned to his cell, Colombian weekly Semana reports.

When he resurfaced, it was under a fake name and a new look, following plastic surgery.

Police finally caught up with him last year in a luxury apartment in the city of Floridablanca, where he was getting ready to celebrate his birthday.

His escape is the latest in a series of scandals to hit Colombia’s prison service.

Earlier this month, its director was sacked after a jailed influential businessman was repeatedly ferried to private meetings by prison staff.


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