The Libertadores del Vichada are a splinter group of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) based in Colombia’s Eastern Plains region. The criminal organization oversees cocaine processing laboratories, coca cultivation and drug trafficking routes, as well as a network of hitmen. Aided by an alliance with powerful Urabeños criminal syndicate, the group has amassed a substantial drug empire.
The Libertadores del Vichada are one of two main splinter groups that formed following the dissolution of the ERPAC, which itself emerged in the wake of the demobilization of paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in the mid-2000s. Initially, the ERPAC was led by Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” and until his death in 2010, it controlled a significant portion of the drug trade in the Eastern Plains region.
A year after Cuchillo’s death, his successor, Jose Eberto Lopez Montero, alias “Caracho,” turned himself in with some 260 ERPAC fighters. By February 2012, the remaining ERPAC members had formed into two main splinter groups, the Libertadores del Vichada and the Meta Bloc, numbering around 560 fighters in total (pdf).
The Libertadores del Vichada were briefly led by Albert Narvaez Mejia, alias “Careto,” but were then taken over by Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias “Pijarbey” – Cuchillo’s former military leader and second-in-command – following his release from prison.
Under Pijarbey’s leadership, the group fought against the Meta Bloc for control of ERPAC’s coca crops, cocaine laboratories, and trafficking routes to Venezuela. The Libertadores del Vichada allied themselves with the Urabeños, while the Meta Bloc had the support of powerful drug lord Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco.” Both Barrera and Meta Bloc leader Rubber Antonio Navarro Caicedo, alias “Flaco Fredy,” were captured in September 2012, positioning the Libertadores del Vichada to take over ERPAC’s former territories.
With the challenge from the Meta Bloc fading, the Libertadores del Vichada grew quickly, increasing from 143 fighters to an estimated 250 by March 2014. In addition to drug trafficking operations in the Eastern Plains region, the Libertadores del Vichada have sent emissaries to Colombia’s Amazon region to establish a drug trafficking route. Nine members of the group were captured in the region in May 2014, however, and it remains unclear whether the Libertadores still have drug trafficking operations in the area.
The Libertadores del Vichada have also been linked to extortion and to a fuel theft network dismantled in July 2014. The network allegedly infiltrated transnational oil company Pacific Rubiales and stole up to 200 gallons a day for use in Pijarbey’s cocaine laboratories.
Although the group appears to be expanding its reach, it also suffered a series of blows in 2013 and 2014, with the captures of numerous high ranking members.
Since the death of Martín Farfán Díaz Gonzales, alias “Pijarbey” in 2015, and his second-in-command, alias “Movil 7,” in 2017, the group has constantly changed leadership as a result of the actions of public security forces, as has happened with aliases “Tigre,” “Caratejo,” “Wilmar,” “Perla” y “El Mexicano.”
In the first half of 2020, two of the highest ranking leaders were arrested, leaving Los Libertadores without a single defined leader.
The main area of operation for the Libertadores is the region known as the Eastern Plains, which incorporates the provinces of Meta, Vichada, and Guaviare. The group also appears to have expanded its reach into the Amazon region and the departments of Casanare and Atlántico, particularly in Barranquilla.
Allies and Enemies
The Libertadores are allied with the Urabeños, and may also have ties to the Oficina de Envigado, a Medellin-based drug network. Authorities began to investigate this relationship after key Oficina operative, alias “Cesarin,” sought refuge in the Libertadores’ territory.
The panorama of the Eastern Plains, particularly on the Venezuelan border, have led to the group establishing alliances with the ex-FARC mafia and some smaller structures within the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), with regard to the coordination of criminal activity and the provision of certain services, such as security or enforcing justice in the territories they control.
The Libertadores’ main enemies are rival ERAPC splinter groups, the Meta Bloc, and other smaller criminal structures.
The Libertadores del Vichada control a lucrative drug empire, including profitable trafficking routes to Venezuela, which has allowed their leaders to form alliances with other criminal groups from around the region in regards to drug shipments. While Pijarbey’s apprehension slowed the group’s expansion into new territories, particularly considering the challenge of establishing a lasting leader, the group’s advantages in the Eastern Plains have been a determining factor in its actions and maintenance of criminal alliances.