HomeNewsBriefColombia Discovers 'Giant' ELN Cocaine Lab
BRIEF

Colombia Discovers 'Giant' ELN Cocaine Lab

COCAINE / 19 NOV 2015 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

A huge cocaine processing complex run by the ELN has been found in west Colombia, showcasing the guerrilla group's role in a drug trade that could soon be changing hands.

The Colombian Armed Forces have discovered one of the biggest cocaine laboratories ever found in the western department of Nariño, according to an army press release. The compound was reportedly capable of producing seven tons of cocaine per month and was run by the Comuneros del Sur Front of Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Estimated to be worth over $3.2 million, with more than $1.9 million in drug precursor materials, the complex consisted of two cocaine manufacturing plants, a living area for 50 people, and an electricity plant.

Three months of intelligence gathering led authorities to the cocaine processing facility, located in a woodland area in the municipality of Samaniego. The army seized 347 kg of what appeared to be cocaine, over 15,000 liters of liquid cocaine, seven tons of solid precursor material, and over 91,000 liters of liquid precursors.

InSight Crime Analysis

Nariño is one of Colombia's main coca producing regions, with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group known to use it as a base for cocaine production. It is far less common, however, to discover an ELN-run cocaine lab, especially of this scale.

SEE ALSO: ELN News and Profile

Following decades of avoiding involvement under Manuel Perez Martinez, alias "El Cura Perez," the ELN's greater role in the drug trade is now evident throughout Colombia. In the key coca growing department of Norte de Santander, the ELN front Juan Fernando Porras Martinez is funded entirely by drug trafficking, according to intelligence sources consulted by InSight Crime. The front's leader, alias "Gonzalo Satelite," allegedly took over a large coca producing zone following the demobilization of the Bloque Catatumbo, a faction of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Nevertheless, the ELN still appears to lack an efficient trafficking network in this region, with sources telling InSight Crime they have been unable to move 4.5 tons of cocaine since the recent death of major cocaine broker Victor Ramon Navarro, alias "Megateo."

While the ELN's traditional distance from the drug trade has been considered a reason for their slower growth compared to the FARC, the tables could soon turn. A potential demobilization of the FARC -- who are currently believed to control up to 70 percent of all coca cultivation in Colombia -- looms on the horizon. The ELN, however, are still struggling to get peace talks with the government underway. As a result, should elements of the FARC abandon their drug trafficking infrastructure across the country -- as was the case with the demobilization of the AUC -- the ELN may be next in line to fill the vacuum.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 17 NOV 2015

Fuel theft is reportedly on the rise in Colombia in part due to the recent border crisis with Venezuela, pushing…

COLOMBIA / 14 FEB 2011

While Colombian rebel groups and the new generation of drug cartels have been moving ever closer in the interests of…

COLOMBIA / 19 JUL 2012

Colombia's celebrated national police chief General Oscar Naranjo has retired, leaving his successor to grapple with challenges like emerging criminal…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.