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Colombia

After more than half a century of civil war and the rise and fall of drug trafficking empires, Colombia has made huge strides in improving its security situation in recent years.

Latest News

The Derring-Do of a Bolivian Drug Trafficking Warhorse

NEWS / 20 APR 2021

An old associate of Pablo Escobar, who spent 27 years in prison in the United States, is behind bars once again – this time in Peru – which goes to…

Colombia Decides EPL is No Longer Major Threat

NEWS / 19 APR 2021

Colombia has downgraded the threat level of one of the country's oldest criminal groups, which means fewer resources and troops will go toward fighting it.

What Criminals Plan Via Encrypted Messaging Services

NEWS / 15 APR 2021

The infiltration of an encrypted phone messaging service by Belgian authorities led to a record cocaine haul, showing both how such secretive communications are crucial both to those operating international…

Colombia Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

A deadly mix of drug trafficking groups, active rebel forces, and dissident cells of former guerillas have emerged in Colombia to fill the power vacuum left after the demobilization of the country’s largest guerilla army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). Fatal conflicts occur regularly throughout the country as various groups seek to control territory and the cocaine supply chain, along with other criminal economies, such as illegal mining and timber trafficking. Local criminal networks, from street gangs to Medellin’s formidable Oficina de Envigado, have long controlled the country’s urban underworlds.

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Personalities

Ricardo Abel Ayala Ortega, alias ‘Cabuyo’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / JULY 28, 2020

Ricardo Abel Ayala Ortega, alias "Cabuyo," is currently one of Colombia's highest value military targets and operates mainly in the northwestern department of Antioquia.

Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, alias ‘Don Lucho’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2020-04-29

For some two decades, Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, alias “Don Lucho,” is alleged to have played a significant role in trafficking drugs out of Colombia’s prized Eastern Plains region.

José Manuel Sierra Sabogal, alias ‘Zarco Aldinever’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / FEBRUARY 2, 2020

José Manuel Sierra Sabogal, alias "Zarco Aldinever," served with the 51st, 52nd, and 26th fronts, in the departments of Meta, Cundinamarca and Boyacá and became one of the top commanders…

José Vicente Lesmes, alias ‘Walter Mendoza’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / FEBRUARY 2, 2020

José Vicente Lesmes, alias "Walter Mendoza," played a historic role within the ranks of the now demobilized FARC, playing an important in the creation of the guerrilla group's infamous Mobile…

Leider Johani Noscue, alias ‘Mayimbú’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 8 NOV 2019

Leider Noscue, known by his alias “Mayimbú,” is currently one of the highest-value military targets in the department of Cauca, to the west of Colombia.

Seuxis Pausías Hernández, alias ‘Jesús Santrich’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / AUGUST 18, 2020

Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” is a former rebel commander who has taken up arms again as part of a new dissident force made up of ex-leaders of…

Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriaga, alias ‘El Paisa’

COLOMBIA / SEPTEMBER 3, 2019

Hernán Darío Velásquez, better known as 'El Paisa,' was a top former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) and his exact…

Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho”

COLOMBIA / JANUARY 18, 2019

Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho,” was one of the most wanted criminals in both Colombia and Ecuador, after military forces made him a priority target. Guacho led the dissident members…

José Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos, alias ‘El Árabe,’ or the ‘Patron de Caucasia’

COLOMBIA MAFIA / MAY 10, 2019

José Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos is presumed to be one of the biggest drug lords in Colombia. During his criminal career spanning more than 20 years, Piedrahita managed to stay out…

Miguel Botache Santillana, alias ‘Gentil Duarte’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / OCTOBER 27, 2019

Miguel Botache Santillana, better known as "Gentil Duarte," is currently Colombia's most wanted criminal. He used to be an important leader within the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército…

Géner García Molina, alias ‘Jhon 40’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / OCTOBER 27, 2019

Géner García Molina, better known as "Jhon 40," is the one who connects the cocaine that leaves southern Colombia with its buyers in Venezuela. If there is one example…

Néstor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias ‘Iván Mordisco’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / OCTOBER 27, 2019

Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias “Iván Mordisco,” is currently one of southern Colombia’s principal criminals. Until 2016 he served as commander of the FARC’s 1st Front—also known as “Armando Ríos”—but…

Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias ‘Puntilla’

COLOMBIA / DECEMBER 7, 2018

Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias “Puntilla,” is a drug trafficker who controlled a criminal network descended from paramilitaries in Colombia’s strategic Eastern Plains region. He was arrested in February 2016 but…

Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias ‘Pijarbey’

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-07 21:59:53

Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias "Pijarbey" was a powerful criminal operative in Colombia's Eastern Plains region. He was the leader of the Libertadores del Vichada, a splinter group of the…

Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias ‘Marquitos’

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:46:48

Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias "Marquitos," is a powerful underworld figure in Colombia's northeast provinces of La Guajira and Cesar, whose reach extends deep into the region's political establishment.

Victor Navarro, alias ‘Megateo’

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:49:02

Victor Ramon Navarro Serrano, alias "Megateo," led the only remaining faction of the EPL guerrilla movement. Megateo was considered the most important drug trafficker in Norte de Santander, had a…

Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias ‘Gavilán’

COLOMBIA / 2017-09-01 17:13:50

Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias "Gavilán," transformed himself from Maoist guerrilla to paramilitary fighter to top leader of the Urabeños. He turned himself in to authorities twice, only to return…

Diego Fernando Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna’

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:48:11

Until his extradition to the United States in 2008, Diego Fernando Murillo, alias "Don Berna," was the leader of mafia group the Oficina de Envigado, which grew from the…

Henry de Jesús López, alias ‘Mi Sangre’

AUC / 2017-03-09 22:14:34

Medellin native Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias "Mi Sangre," had a prolific criminal career that saw him become a key number of several criminal organizations in Colombia.

Jose Eberto Lopez Montero, alias ‘Caracho’

CARACHO / 2017-03-09 22:17:24

Jose Eberto Lopez Montero, alias "Caracho," is a former soldier who was recruited into the ranks of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), fighting for the paramilitary…

Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias ‘Timochenko’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / JANUARY 28, 2020

Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias "Timochenko," is only the third commander-in-chief in the FARC's nearly 50-year history. Of the three, Timochenko has the most mysterious past. …

Angel de Jesus Pacheco Chanci, alias ‘Sebastian’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:50:47

Angel de Jesus Pacheco Chanci, alias "Sebastian," is generally recognized as being responsible for a great deal of the mayhem that afflicted northeast Antioquia, Colombia throughout 2009…

Rafael Alvarez Piñeda, alias ‘Chepe’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 21:08:28

A member of Colombia’s AUC, Rafael Alvarez Piñeda, alias "Chepe," demobilized in 2006, going on to lead the paramilitary successor group the Paisas, but later switched sides…

Cesar Augusto Torres Lujan, alias ‘Mono Vides’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:52:15

A former fighter in the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), Cesar Augusto Torres Lujan, alias "Mono Vides," was a commander for the Paisas in Antioquia province. He died…

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias ‘Otoniel’

COLOMBIA MAFIA / MARCH 14, 2018

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” is the head of Colombia’s most powerful criminal group, the Urabeños, and the country’s most wanted man. But his grip on power is slipping as…

Juan de Dios Úsuga, alias ‘Giovanni’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:54:35

Juan de Dios Usuga, alias "Giovanni," headed the Urabeños' military wing while the group was under the command of Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias "Don Mario."…

Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias ‘Mono Jojoy’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 00:05:16

Until his death in September 2010, Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias "Mono Jojoy," was the top military commander of Colombian rebel group the FARC, head of the feared Eastern Bloc and…

Pedro Oliverio Guerrero, alias ‘Cuchillo’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 00:10:07

Pedro Oliverio Guerrero, alias "Cuchillo," demobilized with the paramilitaries before forming successor group the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), which bought drugs from the guerrillas and controlled large…

Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias ‘Valenciano’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:08:37

Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias "Valenciano," was a leader in the Colombian criminal organization Oficina de Envigado, and forged ties with international trafficking organizations such as the Zetas in Mexico. He…

Luciano Marín Arango, alias ‘Iván Márquez’

COLOMBIA / AUGUST 18, 2020

Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was a member of the FARC Secretariat. He is widely considered to have been one of the main political and ideological leaders of the…

Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias ‘Gabino’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / MAY 19, 2020

Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias "Gabino," was a peasant recruit who rose to become the commander in chief and political leader of Colombia guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (Ejército de…

Erickson Vargas Cardenas, alias ‘Sebastian’ (Oficina)

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:12:46

Erickson Vargas Cardenas, alias "Sebastian," is a former hitman turned leader of the feared Oficina de Envigado organization that operates in and around Medellin, Colombia. He was captured by Colombian…

Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias ‘Antonio Garcia’

ANTONIO GARCÍA / 2016-11-07 21:05:19

Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias "Antonio Garcia," is the number two commander in Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group.

Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias ‘El Loco’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / MAY 5, 2020

Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias "El Loco," was the closest thing Colombia has to a modern Pablo Escobar. Until his capture in 2012, he used a vast network of collaborators, from former…

Diego Perez Henao, alias ‘Diego Rastrojo’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:02:10

Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," was the military head of the Rastrojos, a criminal syndicate whose reach stretches across Colombia, and into Ecuador and…

Luis E. Calle Serna

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-02-16 22:07:27

Luis Enrique Calle Serna was a leader in the feared and ambitious Rastrojos criminal organization in Colombia. He surrendered to US authorities in Panama on October 2, 2012, and was sentenced…

Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias ‘Comba’

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 03:35:08

Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” was the top leader of the Rastrojos, a group of former paramilitary hitmen turned drug trafficking organization in Colombia. He…

Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias ‘Alfonso Cano’

ALFONSO CANO / 2017-03-10 03:22:31

Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias Alfonso Cano, was the supreme commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the hemisphere's oldest and deadliest insurgency. He was killed on November 4, 2011.

News

COLOMBIA / 15 APR 2021

Colombia remains a hotspot for forced recruitment of minors. In this, the last of a three-part investigation by InSight Crime, journalist Mathew Charles looks at how school teachers are trying…

COLOMBIA / 8 APR 2021

Children serve in a wide range of roles in criminal organizations: errand boy, landmine builder, frontline combatant and assassin. In this, the second of a three-part investigation by InSight Crime…

COLOMBIA / 7 APR 2021

Illegal gold mining is devastating South America's jungles. The trade has been destroying large swaths of forest and flooding rivers with toxic mercury at an alarming rate.

COLOMBIA / 5 APR 2021

A sophisticated human trafficking network dismantled in Colombia, illustrates a pattern in how Venezuelan citizens, particularly women, are recruited.

COLOMBIA / 1 APR 2021

As in the darkest days of Colombia's civil conflict, armed groups across the country continue to enlist and exploit teenage boys and girls. In this, the first of a three-part…

COCAINE / 26 MAR 2021

Authorities in Europe — already overwhelmed by a flood of cocaine arriving in cargo ships — now must face another smuggling method that has bedeviled law enforcement in the Americas:…

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