HomeNewsBriefColombia Finally Gets Serious About Tackling the Urabeños
BRIEF

Colombia Finally Gets Serious About Tackling the Urabeños

COLOMBIA / 27 JUN 2017 BY VICTORIA DITTMAR EN

The Colombian government has made some discrete changes to its hunt for the country's most wanted criminal, changes that may well tip the scales in what has, for the last two years, been a fruitless search.

With remarkably little fanfare, Colombia's Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas announced on June 22 that the search for Dario Antonio Úsuga, alias "Otoniel," the nation's most wanted drug lord, will now be led by General Jorge Luis Vargas, the director of the criminal investigations branch of the national police -- perhaps the most capable investigative police official in the country.

His appointment also marks the first time that a joint security task force will be under police, rather than military, control. The task force, charged with leading a new offensive against the Urabeños' criminal structure, will consist of 3,200 members of the police, navy, army, and air force, El Tiempo reported.

US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker was present for Villegas' announcement at the task force's headquarters in Necoclí, in the department of Antioquia. There are signs that the United States may well step up assistance to the operation to capture Otoniel and other Urabeños leaders, with the ultimate goal of dismantling the transnational drug trafficking organization.

"This is the fourth time I have come to Necoclí in order to get to know the results of the police, which demonstrates the commitment and interest my country shares in supporting law enforcement in its fight against drug trafficking and organized crime," Whitaker told El Tiempo.

InSight Crime Analysis

The appointment of Jorge Luis Vargas as commander of the new joint task force is part of the second phase of Operation Agamemnon, the Colombian government's name for the search effort targeting the Urabeños. During its first phase, which lasted over two years, authorities arrested more than 1,000 members of the group, but have been unsuccessful in capturing Otoniel and dismantling the criminal structure.

SEE ALSO: Colombia's Largest-Ever Manhunt Hasn't Caught Its Top Target. Here's Why.

InSight Crime visited the headquarters at Necoclí where Operation Agamemnon is based. There in full display were Black Hawk helicopters provided by the United States, and a state-of-the-art intelligence center. There is little doubt that this will be the base of operations for General Vargas, who is best known for his work in the Directorate of Police Intelligence (Dirección de Inteligencia Policial - DIPOL), where he elevated Colombia's intelligence infrastructure to world-class standards.

Placing the police in charge of the new joint task force is one of the first signs of a shifting strategy within the Defense Ministry towards a post-conflict environment where the police -- and not the military -- will take the lead in guaranteeing internal security, as the constitution dictates. This could be a small glimpse of what is to come following the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).   

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 / 2 MAY 2014

While the Urabeños are presently established as Colombia's top drug trafficking group, it remains to be seen how the evolution…

COLOMBIA / 12 APR 2011

The leader of the decimated Machos, a group once responsible for shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine to the US,…

BRAZIL / 16 MAR 2016

Former presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil have written an open letter denouncing the war on drugs and calling for…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.