The capture of a top leader of Los Pachelly, a powerful gang centered in the town of Bello near Medellín, has been lauded by authorities. But the group's power base remains intact and there are fears this arrest may lead to more violence.
On May 11, Colombian police arrested Alexánder Uribe García, alias "Banano," leader of Los Pachelly in Bello, Antioquia. Banano was among the most wanted gang members in Colombia and allegedly tried to bribe police with $9,000 (30 million Colombian pesos) to avoid arrest.
Banano, 45, was arrested on charges of ordering homicides, extortion, forced displacements, drug trafficking and illegally carrying firearms. He is also accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old boy, according to General Eliécer Camacho, Medellín's police chief.
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But the police have confirmed that the capture of Banano could lead to an escalation of violence in Bello by Los Pachelly. In order to prevent this, they have established security measures, such as a curfew for minors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and have banned motorcycle trips with two people on board.
There have already been reports of threats being made by hooded men on motorcycles through videos circulating on social media.
Los Pachelly are currently fighting for control of Bello with two other criminal gangs known as "El Mesa" and "Niquía Camacol." In the last year, murders in the town have climbed by 111.5 percent as violence has soared.
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Los Pachelly have been gaining in power in the department Antioquia since the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC. Despite some fragmentation, it is now one of the most dangerous gangs in the Medellín area, a fact confirmed by the importance given to Banano's arrest.
The gang has been watched by authorities since 2011 but they grew rapidly in importance in 2017, when they bought out the Urabeños' franchise and criminal operations in the town of Ituango, Antioquia, according to Análisis Urbano. Since then, Los Pachelly have focused their actions on the buying of coca paste.
The group has also consolidated alliances with other criminal organizations, including dissidents from the 36th Front of the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), commanded by Ricardo Abel Ayala, alias "Cabuyo."
The gang member who was in charge of Los Pachelly's link with these ex-FARC Mafia, Fernando Alberto Jiménez Ruiz, alias "Caníbal," was captured by the army in August 2018.
In addition to Ituango, Colombia's Ombudsman's Office has warned Los Pachelly are expanding into the municipalities of San Andrés de Cuerquia, Toledo, Yarumal and Briceño in northern Antioquia. There, the gang has reportedly been involved in micro-trafficking, drugs production, and the forced recruitment and sexual exploitation of children in rural areas.
Los Pachelly's ringleader, Antonio Henao Acevedo, alias "Albert," remains at large and is also among Colombia's most wanted.
High-level captures such as that of Banano have not appeared to have weakened the group, which is making rapid strides within Colombia's criminal underworld by expanding its territory and through savvy alliances.