HomeColombiaDiego Fernando Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna’
COLOMBIA

Diego Fernando Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna’

COLOMBIA / LATEST UPDATE 2016-11-17 14:48:11 EN

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 ashes of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel.

History

Don Berna began his criminal career as a member of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), a small guerrilla group that was the starting point for a number of other high profile members of Colombia’s criminal underworld, including the Rastrojos‘ Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” and the Usuga brothers Dario and Juan de Dios, of the Urabeños.

After leaving the EPL in the 1980s, Don Berna began working for the Galeano crime family in Medellin, who at the time were members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. When a conflict broke out between the Galeano brothers and Escobar in 1992 over allegations of theft, Escobar had them assassinated.

Don Berna Factbox

DOB: February 23, 1961

Group: Oficina de Envigado

Criminal Activities: Cocaine trafficking

Status: Extradited June 2008

Area of Operation: Medellin, Colombia

Don Berna decided to seek vengeance. Along with paramilitary leaders Fidel and Carlos Castaño, he created the People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (PEPES). A combination of criminal forces, the PEPES united rural paramilitaries, the Cali Cartel and corrupt elements of the Colombian National Police in an effort to take down Escobar once and for all. The PEPES were instrumental in the police’s work to track down and kill the kingpin in December 1993.

With Escobar out of the picture, Don Berna began taking over the drug trafficking enterprise he had left behind in Medellin. He deepened his ties to paramilitary organizations, and eventually headed several blocs of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), including the Medellin-based Cacique Nutibara Bloc.

Don Berna also established control over local street gangs in the city, known as “combos,” forcing them to hand over a percentage of their profits in exchange for being allowed to extort, rob and sell drugs. He created a fearsome hit squad known as La Terraza, which played a part in ridding Medellin of guerrilla presence.

In 2005, Don Berna participated in the demobilization of the AUC, turning himself in to authorities. Soon after, however, he was imprisoned on charges that he had broken the terms of his demobilization. Don Berna directed his group to reduce violence levels, causing homicides in Medellin to plummet. This peace became known as “Donbernabilidad,” a cynical reference to the Spanish word for “governability.” The calm ended in 2008, however, when he was extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Criminal Activities

Don Berna made his money primarily from cocaine trafficking and taxing local street gangs. He also ran a hit squad known as La Terraza.

Geography

Don Berna is from the city of Tulua in Valle del Cauca province, but his power base was in Medellin, Antioquia.

Allies and Enemies

Don Berna was known as a cold, calculating criminal who never made permanent alliances. He personally ordered the deaths of several one-time allies, including La Terraza heads who challenged his authority, and other AUC leaders. He was among those who plotted to kill AUC founder Carlos Castaño, a former ally, and likely ordered the death of rival AUC lieutenant Carlos Mauricio Garcia Fernandez, alias “Doble Cero.”

Prospects

In June 2008, Don Berna pleaded guilty in the Southern District Court of New York to “conspiring to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine into the United States,” and was sentenced to 31 years in prison. Since then the Oficina has been badly fractured and has lost much of its former standing.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 23 MAR 2015

In the latest twist in a corruption scandal that has rocked Colombia's justice system, the former head of the…

COLOMBIA / 7 NOV 2013

The Colombian government and Marxist guerrillas have negotiated a deal on ensuring rebel political participation, a key advance, moving the…

COLOMBIA / 10 DEC 2014

A new United Nations report provides some sense of the scale of Colombia's conflict since rebel group the FARC began…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…