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Libertadores del Vichada

COLOMBIA / LATEST UPDATE 23 ABRIL DE 2021 EN

The Libertadores del Vichada were a splinter group of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), based in Colombia's Eastern Plains. The criminal organization oversaw a substantial drug empire, including cocaine processing laboratories, coca cultivation and drug trafficking routes, as well as a network of hitmen.

However, as of 2017, according to Colombian authorities, the group has been successfully dismantled.

History

The Libertadores del Vichada were 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.

The Libertadores del Vichada 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.

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. This downward spiral continued with the death of Pijarbey in 2015 and, by 2017, the group ceased to be a functional criminal threat.

Leadership

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 name "Libertadores del Vichada" has continued to be used by Colombian authorities, in connection to certain arrests, but it is uncertain to what extent any of its former members are re-using the name. 

Geography

The main area of operation for the Libertadores was the region known as the Eastern Plains, which incorporates the departments of Meta, Vichada, and Guaviare.

Allies and Enemies

The Libertadores were allied with the Urabeños and may also have had 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, led to the group establishing alliances with structures within the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and the ex-FARC Mafia, 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 were rival ERPAC splinter groups, such as the Meta Bloc, and other smaller criminal structures.

Prospects

The Libertadores del Vichada controlled a lucrative drug empire, including profitable trafficking routes to Venezuela, which allowed their leaders to form alliances with other criminal groups from around the region in regards to drug shipments.

Today, while the name "Libertadores del Vichada" has continued to surface in police reports and media articles about the arrests of drug traffickers in Vichada, it is uncertain to what extent former members are re-using the name as part of a new criminal group. 

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