WATCH: Notorious Colombian criminal allegedly masterminded, escaped in mass jailbreak

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One of Colombia’s most dangerous criminals has reportedly escaped from prison during a mass jailbreak, potentially fleeing the country in the process. 

“It is a very strange situation, everything could point to an act of corruption, it is not understood why he was still being held in a station with his criminal profile,” a police source told ES Euro

Retired Army Major Juan Carlos Rodriguez, also known as “Zeus,” was in prison for two weeks before making a daring escape on April 21. Local police claimed that 21 others detainees also escaped in the mass jailbreak, which started when an inmate faked an illness to draw guards into his cell and then ambush them. 

The inmates used the cover of a tropical storm to mask their escape from the facility, and video showed that Rodriguez covered his face with a towel as he hurried out of the cell and into the streets. At least 10 officers were present when the first guard opened the cell to check the inmates, according to Jam Press. 

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“As general director of the Police, I apologize for what happened in the city of Cúcuta: There have been a series of errors that are part of the investigation carried out by the Police Inspector,” William Salamanca, general of the National Police, said following the escape. 

A reward of 50 million Colombian pesos (around $12,000) has been offered for the capture of Rodriguez. 

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Inmates at a jail in Cucuta, Colombia, rushed the guard after he opened the cell to check on an inmate who was faking illness. (Jam Press)

Colombian President Gustavo Petro denounced Rodriguez as the “type of criminal association” that “must be dismantled as soon as possible.”

Police have initiated a wide-scale operation, including the closure of all exit routes from the city of Cucuta, in order to recapture the various fugitives. Reports have claimed as many as 50 inmates could now be at large following the escape.

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Some of the prisoners returned after sustaining injuries in the prison break, including one inmate who was trapped under the fence that surrounded the parking lot after it collapsed under the weight of the inmates trying to climb over it. 

One person claimed that Rodriguez was the one who actually planned the whole escape, according to Noticias Caracol

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Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during a May Day (Labor Day) rally in Bogotá on May 1, 2024. (Raul Arboldea/AFP via Getty Images)

Three police officers have been arrested for their role in the escape, though details remain scarce as to how they might have assisted the prisoners. 

Rodriguez was arrested and convicted for arms trafficking and for serving in the paramilitary for the Norte del Valle cartel, considered a major ally of drug dealer Diego Montoya, alias Don Diego, who traffics cocaine. Police arrested four other individuals with Rodriguez at the time. 

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He tried to present himself and his allies as members of the National Protection Unit and offered a “millionaire sum of money” to the officers to let him go free. Police seized a small military unit’s haul of weapons, including 9 mm pistols, Glocks, grenades, mortars and two bars of C4 explosives. 

A soldier patrols outside the Modelo prison in Cucuta, Columbia, during a riot on March 24, 2020. (Schneyder Mendoza/AFP via Getty Images)

Police also suspect Rodriguez of carrying out extrajudicial killings on behalf of his criminal associates, including the alleged murder of a journalist. He has previously served time in prison and has “numerous convictions,” with his first arrest coming in 2005.

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His most recent arrest ended with parole in 2021, after agreeing to cooperate with authorities and provide information on ties between the military, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers throughout the country, according to Colombia Reports

Rodriguez had provided information about how the National Army had supported a rival cartel gang member to force a civil war in Norte del Valle. 



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