Los Comandos de la Frontera, or the Border Command, formerly known as La Mafia, is a group made up of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and La Constru, a post-demobilization successor of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), which looks to maintain control over drug trafficking in Bajo Putumayo and along Colombia’s border with Ecuador.
La Mafia formed as an alliance between dissident elements of the now defunct-FARC’s 48th and 32nd Fronts and La Constru to reactivate drug trafficking in Putumayo after the signing of the Peace Agreement affected the prices of base paste and cocaine hydrochloride, making them less profitable.
However, the group, now called the Comandos de Frontera, or the Border Command, have become a criminal actor in their own right. The group changed its name at the end of 2020 in an attempt to clean up its image and distance itself from the threats against and murders of social leaders. Nevertheless, it continues to intimidate communities and engage in a conflict with the Carolina Ramírez Front, another dissident group of the FARC, with which it competes for control of illegal crops and drug trafficking routes.
The Border Command is involved in the entire drug trafficking chain in the areas where it has a presence. According to sources on the ground who spoke to InSight Crime, the elements of the dissent were responsible for the protection of crops and crystallizations, while the Constru was in charge of international contacts to negotiate the shipments.
The group controls coca-growing areas, intimidating coca farmers to monopolize the purchase of base paste, and also has crystallizers where it is processed. Additionally, they are responsible for the moving cocaine and marijuana shipments down the Putumayo and San Miguel rivers to cross-border points into Ecuador and Brazil.
For this reason, and in order to prevent the expansion of its enemies, the group has implemented social control measures, including illegal checkpoints, the murder of social leaders, curfews and widespread threats against the population.
Originally led by Pedro Oberman Goyes, alias “Sinaloa,” who was murdered by members of the group in 2019. Additionally, the leader of La Constru, Miguel Antonio Bastidas Bravo, alias “Gárgola,” was also said to have led the group until his arrest in 2019. The group is now led by Giovanny Andrés Rojas, alias “Araña.”
Allies and Enemies
The Border Command disputes control of several municipalities in the department of Putumayo with another group of the Ex-FARC Mafia: the Carolina Ramírez Front, which is allied with Gentil Duarte. The clashes between the two groups started after alias Sinaloa refused to join Gentil Duarte’s group in 2019.
In March 2021, the group announced an alliance with the Second Marquetalia, a leader ex-FARC Mafia faction led by Iván Márquez, changing its name one again to include the words “Ejército Boliviano” or “Bolivarian Army.” However, this alliance may not last for much longer after much of the leadership of the Second Marquetalia was killed between 2021 and 2022.
The group maintains its largest area of operation in the municipalities of Bajo Putumayo (Orito, San Miguel, Valle del Guamuéz and Puerto Guzmán), on the border with Ecuador, a country with which it also has a presence. In the Ecuadorian province of Sucumbíos, authorities have found encampments and allegorical propaganda.
Additionally, the Border Command is seeking over to take coca-growing territories to the north of Putumayo. In May 2022, Colombia’s Ombudsman confirmed the Border Command had moved into the municipalities of Cartagena del Chairá, El Paujíl, La Montañita and Solano in the department of Caquetá. In rural parts of these municipalities, residents have registered homicides, kidnappings, forced recruitment of children and teenagers. According to the Ombudsman report, the Border Command is fighting the dissident ex-FARC Carolina Ramírez Front to control the production and sale of coca paste in southern Colombia.
While the alliance with the Second Marquetalia provides the Border Command with more allies, any tangible consequences of such an agreement are yet to be seen.
For the moment, the group is trying to consolidate its presence to the north of the Putumayo department, near the border with Cauca and Caquetá, territory that is disputed with the Carolina Ramirez Front, while maintaining an tight grip on the south of the department and the drug trafficking routes that pass through it.
It is currently one of the most important criminal groups operating along the border between Colombia and Ecuador and controls much of the drug trafficking and contraband smuggling between the two countries.
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