Members of some of Colombia’s most notorious crime organizations teamed up to traffic about three tons of cocaine, revealing a fascinating high-profile alliance.
On June 4, authorities announced the arrests of 14 people, including members of the Los Urabeños, Oficina de Envigado, Los Pachenca and the Clan del Oriente (Eastern Clan). The first three are established Colombian groups; the Clan del Oriente is less well known. The members pacted to create a criminal network that sent sea and air cocaine shipments to Costa Rica, Panama, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Mexico. The drug was then moved to countries in North America, Europe, Oceania and Asia.
Authorities reported that the group raked in $90 million in profits and that it had links with the Italian mafia and Mexican crime groups, although the exact workings of these connections remain unclear.
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Members of the criminal network that now face extradition to the US on drug charges include Roberto Hernández Ossa, alias “Cambo,” an Oficina leader; Ovidio Isaza Gómez, alias “Roque,” a high-ranking member of the Gulf Clan and the son of Ramón Isaza, who was a leader in the now demobilized paramilitary force, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC); Alba Nery Rodríguez, alias “La Gaviota,” second-in-command of the Oficina’s structure on the Atlantic Coast and companion to “Chucho Mercancía,” a leader of Los Pachenca, who was also captured.
Authorities had targeted heads of two of these groups in the past few months, having recently arrested three leaders of the Oficina and the Pachenca’s second-in-command.
InSight Crime Analysis
Collaboration among crime groups in Colombia is not new, but the particular representatives of this alliance point to possible new collaborations among high-ranking Colombian criminals.
The Urabeños has long established alliances with other crime groups. For example, the Urabeños had outsourced the guarding of drug shipments to Los Pachenca. A conflict, however, ultimately severed that relationship, showing the fragility of such unions.
News reports detail the roles of some members within the criminal network. Hernández Ossa, the high-ranking Oficina leader was in charge of finances. Isaza Gómez coordinated cocaine shipments while Karen Marledis Gallo, a member of the Urabeños known as “La Negra," facilitated the trafficking of drugs and arms among the four groups.
While there is little information about what led the groups’ members to work together on drug shipments, such alliances are often hatched because each group controls different nodes in the drug trafficking chain: coca cultivation, cocaine processing, drug shipments, money laundering, and other essential crime services. The pacts keep losses at a minimum when drugs are seized and members are arrested.
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The alliances can also strengthen individual groups. The Urabeños has been suspected of seeking alliances to expand beyond Urabá, its operations center. Its position as coordinator among the various gangs and its association with the Oficina confirm that the group is looking to fortify itself after recent blows.
What is unclear, however, is what led the Oficina -- the Medellín-based crime syndicate that controls underworld activity in the city and much of the Valle de Aburrá -- to be part of this alliance, and what exactly the group is gaining from it.