A struggle for control over sales of synthetic drug 2CB led to the massacre of eight people in Colombia's third-largest city, police say, a sign that criminal groups see this emerging market as highly lucrative and worth killing for.
As previously reported by InSight Crime, a meeting that took place between members of the Urabeños criminal network in the southwestern city of Cali left eight people dead, including an important leader in the region's synthetic drug trade, Julio Cesar Paz Varela, alias "J1."
El Tiempo reported that Paz met with an Urabeños faction once led by Greylin Fernando Varon Cadena, alias "Martin Bala," and Hector Mario Urdinola, alias "Chicho." These two men, who are under house arrest and in prison, respectively, were the leaders of the Machos -- a group affiliated with the Urabeños -- and once controlled the local trade in 2CB, a synthetic drug also known as "pink cocaine." Paz reportedly took over Cali's trade in 2CB after Chicho's capture.
According to El Tiempo, police believe that Paz and those loyal to him may have been killed on Martin Bala's and Chicho's orders because he wanted to break away and establish an independent 2CB trafficking network, without giving the two leaders a cut of profits.
InSight Crime Analysis
As InSight Crime has previously noted, this dispute is partly due to the Urabeños' reliance on smaller gangs to act as their footsoldiers -- even though these smaller criminal "franchises" don't always get along. If the struggle over control of Cali's 2CB market indeed led to this recent massacre, it would be a clear sign of just how much Colombia's organized crime groups value this synthetic product.
Notably, a man described as Colombia's synthetic drug "czar" and heir to the Macho's drug trafficking network was arrested in March 2014. This may have created a void in the synthetic drug trade that Paz Varela was attempting to fill.
Pink cocaine, which bears no chemical relation to its namesake, has a high street value -- over $70 per dose -- meaning small sales can still equal large profits.The drug produces effects similar to MDMA, and was first introduced in Colombia as a party drug for the wealthy. The seizure of over 3,000 2CB capsules in 2013 prompted police to claim that 2CB was "gradually replacing cocaine".
SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profile
Large seizures of 2CB in countries like Peru show the drug is gaining popularity in other parts of Latin America as well, following a trend towards increased synthetic drug use -- and production -- in the region.