A major bust last week of a Colombian-led narcotics ring deep in the Spanish Pyrenees led to the arrest of 12 people, the seizure of two kilograms of cocaine and the discovery of the laboratory where the drug was processed. Police say they discovered the traffickers while on the trail of the killer of a brown bear.

Both pro- and anti-bear associations in Spain remember well the death of Cachou the Bear, whose body had been found last April at the bottom of a ravine in the eastern region of Catalonia. Known to be responsible for several attacks on livestock, the brown bear had many enemies among the locals, and murder was quickly suspected. The theory was confirmed when the autopsy revealed that it had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, a toxic antifreeze used in car coolants.

An investigation was open, which included secret wiretapping of half a dozen people suspected in the death. Hoping to record conversations about the killing of the bear, the investigators instead stumbled on to even more juicy discussions about cocaine purchases and a laboratory where cocaine paste imported from Colombia was processed into ready-to-use doses. Among the suspects arrested last week is a mayor of the region.

"It is as if the animal, in gratitude for the effort (of investigators) responded to them with the alleged organization of drug traffickers," an official source told Barcelona-based La Vanguardia.

And what about justice for Cachou? The primary suspect, a forest ranger of the Aran Valley, had been arrested back in November. Still, like with the battle against international drug traffickers, that investigation continues.


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