HomeCountriesColombia organized crime news

Colombia

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.

Latest News

Five Years into Colombia Peace Process, Ex-FARC Fighters Continue to Flee

NEWS / 26 NOV 2021

Alerts of the mass displacement of ex-combatants in Meta, due to the deteriorating security situation in the department, warn of the ongoing challenges that persist in Colombia five years after…

Ecuador Smuggling Rings See Windfall in Migrants

NEWS / 19 NOV 2021

A surge in US-bound migrants has been a boon to human smuggling rings in Ecuador – in a pattern that is playing out across much of the region.

Colombia's San Andrés Losing Battle Against Illegal Fishing

NEWS / 17 NOV 2021

As Colombia and Nicaragua continue battling over fishing rights and policing around the Caribbean archipelago of San Andrés, its waters have become vulnerable to illegal fishing from vessels across the…

Colombia Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

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.

icon
icon

Personalities

Pablo Escobar

AUC / 30 AUG 2021

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the pioneer in industrial-scale cocaine trafficking.

Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias 'Antonio Garcia'

ANTONIO GARCÍA / JUNE 24, 2021

Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias "Antonio Garcia," is the number two commander in Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group.

A Black Cap and A Photo - How John 40 Shook Up FARC Dissidents

COLOMBIA / 14 JUN 2021

A former FARC leader and veteran drug trafficker has sided with ex-commander Iván Márquez, a move that could prove crucial to the future of dissident FARC criminal groups in Colombia…

Ricardo Abel Ayala Ortega, alias 'Cabuyo'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / APRIL 23, 2021

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / JULY 16, 2021

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / FEBRUARY 2, 2020

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / FEBRUARY 2, 2020

José Vicente Lesmes, alias "Walter Mendoza," played a historic role within the ranks of the now demobilized FARC, playing an important in the creation of the guerrilla group's infamous Mobile…

Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias 'Romaña'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 8 NOV 2019

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 8 NOV 2019

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / MAY 18, 2021

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'

COLOMBIA / SEPTEMBER 3, 2019

Hernán Darío Velásquez, better known as 'El Paisa,' was a top former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) and his exact…

Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho”

COLOMBIA / JANUARY 18, 2019

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'

COLOMBIA MAFIA / MAY 10, 2019

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / OCTOBER 27, 2019

Miguel Botache Santillana, better known as "Gentil Duarte," is currently Colombia's most wanted criminal. He used to be an important leader within the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército…

Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias 'Pablito'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / NOVEMBER 11, 2021

Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo Quinchía, alias “Pablito”, is a member of the ELN’s Central Command (Comando Central – COCE). He is one of the ELN’s most belligerent commanders and is critical of the peace…

Géner García Molina, alias 'John 40'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / JUNE 14, 2021

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / SEPTEMBER 21, 2021

Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias “Iván Mordisco,” is currently one of southern Colombia’s principal criminals. Until 2016 he served as commander of the FARC’s 1st Front—also known as “Armando Ríos”—but…

Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias 'Puntilla'

COLOMBIA / DECEMBER 7, 2018

Óscar Mauricio Pachón, alias “Puntilla,” is a drug trafficker who controlled a criminal network descended from paramilitaries in Colombia’s strategic Eastern Plains region. He was arrested in February 2016 but…

Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias 'Pijarbey'

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-07 21:59:53

Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias "Pijarbey" was a powerful criminal operative in Colombia's Eastern Plains region. He was the leader of the Libertadores del Vichada, a splinter group of the…

Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias 'Marquitos'

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:46:48

Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias "Marquitos," is a powerful underworld figure in Colombia's northeast provinces of La Guajira and Cesar, whose reach extends deep into the region's political establishment.

Victor Navarro, alias 'Megateo'

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:49:02

Victor Ramon Navarro Serrano, alias "Megateo," led the only remaining faction of the EPL guerrilla movement. Megateo was considered the most important drug trafficker in Norte de Santander, had a…

Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias 'Gavilán'

COLOMBIA / 2017-09-01 17:13:50

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'

COLOMBIA / 2016-11-17 14:48:11

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…

Henry de Jesús López, alias 'Mi Sangre'

AUC / 2017-03-09 22:14:34

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'

CARACHO / 2017-03-09 22:17:24

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / JANUARY 28, 2020

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:50:47

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 21:08:28

A member of Colombia’s 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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:52:15

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / OCTOBER 24, 2021

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” is the head of Colombia’s most powerful criminal group, the Urabeños, and the country’s most wanted man. But his grip on power is slipping as…

Juan de Dios Úsuga, alias 'Giovanni'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-09 23:54:35

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 00:05:16

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 00:10:07

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 large…

Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias 'Valenciano'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:08:37

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'

COLOMBIA / AUGUST 18, 2020

Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was a member of the FARC Secretariat. He is widely considered to have been one of the main political and ideological leaders of the…

Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias 'Gabino'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / MAY 19, 2020

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)

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:12:46

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'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / MAY 5, 2020

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 former…

Diego Perez Henao, alias 'Diego Rastrojo'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2016-11-07 22:02:10

Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," was the military head of the Rastrojos, a criminal syndicate whose reach stretches across Colombia, and into Ecuador and…

Luis E. Calle Serna

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-02-16 22:07:27

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…

Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias 'Alfonso Cano'

ALFONSO CANO / 2017-03-10 03:22:31

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.

Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias 'Comba'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 2017-03-10 03:35:08

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…

News

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2021

Long-time leader, Otoniel, President Iván Duque said the gang's "days were numbered." But is that accurate?…

COLOMBIA / 29 OCT 2021

The fascination with “narco-culture” has taken over the entertainment and media industries: documentaries, TV shows, movies, podcasts, even a dedicated page on this website.

COLOMBIA / 29 OCT 2021

series of attacks on oil pipelines in Colombia's northeastern department of Santander, for which the ELN has claimed responsibility, could be a show of strength ahead of the country's upcoming…

AUC / 28 OCT 2021

Accused paramilitary drug lord Guillermo León Acevedo, alias "Memo Fantasma," will remain in a high-security Colombian prison, where he has been jailed for the past four months. Acevedo's lawyers…

AUC / 27 OCT 2021

New documents in the case against accused paramilitary drug lord Guillermo León Acevedo, alias “Memo Fantasma,” reveal that former top Colombian paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso spoke to prosecutors about him,…

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2021

Two top police commanders in Colombia and Mexico have recently admitted to filtering sensitive information to drug traffickers while working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration -- another black eye…

SEE ALL
icon #SupportFreePress
image

Support Our Work

Investigating organized crime is an expensive and often risky enterprise. Reaching primary sources and getting the real story involve extensive fieldwork. Please donate. Every dollar supports our mission.

DONATE NOW image