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.
La Pista: Venezuelans Find Refuge in Colombian Desert
An abandoned Colombian airport has become a shelter for thousands of migrants fleeing organized crime in Venezuela.
Paramilitary Commander Salvatore Mancuso Reveals AUC’s Connections in Colombia
Salvatore Mancuso, a leader of Colombia's demobilized paramilitary group the AUC has offered insights into the group's crimes and influence.
Colombia's Talks With ELN Stumbling, Again
The ELN's talks with the government are not going smoothly. Continuing attacks and disagreements about ceasefires have kept Colombia's Total Peace on a knife-edge.
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. However, it remains beset by guerrilla rebels and criminal networks, and the Colombian underworld is a potent mix of ideological organizations, their remnants and organized crime, where the boundaries between war and criminal activity are fluid.COLOMBIA PROFILE
Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, alias 'The Chess Player'
Colombian kingpin, Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, alias “The Chess Player,” was one of the leaders of the Cali Cartel.
Jobanis de Jesús Ávila Villadiego, alias ‘Chiquito Malo’
Jobanis de Jesús Ávila Villadiego, alias "Chiquito Malo," is the current commander of the AGC, succeeding Otoniel.
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the pioneer in industrial-scale cocaine trafficking.
Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias 'Antonio Garcia'
Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias "Antonio Garcia," is the number two commander in Colombias National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group.
Ricardo Abel Ayala Orrego, alias 'Cabuyo'
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'
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'
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'
José Vicente Lesmes, alias "Walter Mendoza," was a historic FARC commander and currently a top leader within the Second Marquetalia.
Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias 'Romaña'
Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” was the commander of the 53rd Front of the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) and is currently…
Leider Johani Noscue, alias 'Mayimbú'
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'
Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” was a senior former FARC commander who participated in that guerrilla group's demobilization process before taking up arms again in 2019 to form…
Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriaga, alias 'El Paisa'
Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias "El Paisa," was a top former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho”
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'
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'
Miguel Botache Santillana, better known as "Gentil Duarte," was Colombia's most wanted criminal until his death in May 2022.
Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias 'Pablito'
Pablito is one of the ELN's longstanding and most belligerent commanders. His support would be crucial to any peace talks in Colombia.
Géner García Molina, alias 'John 40'
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'
Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias “Iván Mordisco,” was one of Colombia’s principal former FARC commanders until his death in July 2022.
Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias 'Puntilla'
Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias “Puntilla,” was a drug trafficker who controlled a criminal network in Colombia’s strategic Eastern Plains.
Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias 'Pijarbey'
Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias "Pijarbey" was a powerful criminal operative in Colombia's Eastern Plains region.
Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias 'Marquitos'
Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias "Marquitos," is a Colombian smuggler and was captured by authorities in 2014.
Victor Navarro, alias 'Megateo'
Victor Navarro, alias "Megateo," was considered the most important drug trafficker in Norte de Santander until his death.
Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias 'Gavilán'
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'
Don Berna was the leader of Oficina de Envigado, a criminal group in Medellin, which grew after the fall of Pablo Escobar in Colombia.
Henry de Jesús López, alias 'Mi Sangre'
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'
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'
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'
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'
A member of Colombias 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'
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'
Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” was the head of the AGC, Colombia's main drug trafficking group, until his arrest in October 2021.
Juan de Dios Úsuga, alias 'Giovanni'
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'
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'
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…
Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias 'Valenciano'
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'
Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was a senior member of the FARC Secretariat and founded the Second Marquetalia.
Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias 'Gabino'
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)
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…
Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias 'El Loco'
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…
Diego Perez Henao, alias 'Diego Rastrojo'
Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," was the military head of the Rastrojos, a criminal group whose reach stretches across Colombia…
Luis E. Calle Serna
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…
The Rastrojos were one of Colombia's most feared criminal groups but they are now a shadow of their former selves.
Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias 'Comba'
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'
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.
Roldán was found shot dead on May 6 near the town of Fredonia in the Colombian department of Antioquia, Ecuador’s Interior Minister Juan Zapata confirmed on May 8. While the…
Colombia's security policy has made clear the country's intention to tackle the ELN. But to do so, it's relying on the help of Venezuela.
Colombia’s new security policy has put the fight against deforestation front and center, but several challenges loom ahead of its implementation. The “Security, Defense and Citizen Coexistence Policy,” presented April…
A collapse in coca prices means Colombian farmers are struggling to sell their coca crops. The cocaine trade won't be affected, say experts.
InSight Crime spoke to journalist Ioan Grillo to better understand gun trafficking into Latin America from the United States.
In Leticia, a tri-border between Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, Brazilian gangs are pushing up violence as the battle for control.
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