HomeNewsBriefArrest of Top Narco-Guerrilla Could Spark Turmoil in East Colombia
BRIEF

Arrest of Top Narco-Guerrilla Could Spark Turmoil in East Colombia

COLOMBIA / 16 SEP 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Authorities have captured what they say is the maximum leader of the EPL narco-guerrilla network operating in Colombia’s coca heartland of Catatumbo, a move that could cause further upheaval in an already volatile region.

On September 15, Colombian security forces arrested Guillermo León Aguirre, alias “David León” or “Juan Montes,” in a raid on his hideout in the city of Medellín, reported El Tiempo.

Authorities have identified Aguirre as the head of the drug trafficking network formerly led by Víctor Ramón Navarro, alias “Megateo,” who was killed by security forces in October 2015.

The group is generally considered to be a criminalized faction of the demobilized Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL) guerrillas, but also operates under the name Los Pelusos.

Police believe the organization is one of the principal drug trafficking networks in the region of Catatumbo, near the Venezuelan border, and maintains close links to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército Nacional de Liberación – ELN), reported La Opinion

Although Aguirre has been widely touted as the successor to Megateo, prosecutors had previously stated they believed he was already the network’s maximum leader, and that Megateo was second-in-command and the public face of the organization.

InSight Crime Analysis

The region of Catatumbo last year emerged as Colombia’s primary coca growing hub after an 84 percent increase in coca cultivation, according to US monitoring.

In 2016, Catatumbo has seen a spate of organized crime related murders, and according to reports in local media, much of the killing has been linked to an internal purge of Los Pelusos members who were seeking to capitalize on the death of Megateo to set up their own operations.

The region is now set to face further upheaval with the coming demobilization of the FARC, presuming the peace deal struck between the guerrillas and the government is ratified in an October 2 public vote.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the EPL 

While it remains to be seen whether all elements of the FARC will lay down their arms or whether some will criminalize and seek to continue in drug trafficking, the official withdrawal of the FARC will likely lead to shifting power dynamics in the region, creating an opportunity for other actors to stake a claim to Catatumbo’s criminal economies.

Los Pelusos’ close connections to local FARC factions mean they are poised to benefit from this process, as they are in an ideal position to take over FARC interests and receive FARC fighters that do not want to demobilize. However, the loss of their main leader could create a power vacuum or spark a conflict of succession, potentially leading to more chaos and violence for Catatumbo.

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 / 26 APR 2013

One of the Urabeños' top commanders was killed in a shootout with police in the organization's native Uraba region,…

COLOMBIA / 5 AUG 2013

Ecuadorean authorities confiscated $3 million in smuggled goods during the first six months of 2013 at a new checkpoint on…

CARTEL DE LOS SOLES / 22 JUL 2015

The arrests of two retired high-ranking officers in Venezuela's National Guard for drug trafficking may be the result of…

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…