HomeNewsBriefSecond-in-Command of Colombia's Urabeños Killed in Security Operation
BRIEF

Second-in-Command of Colombia's Urabeños Killed in Security Operation

COLOMBIA / 1 SEP 2017 BY ANGELIKA ALBALADEJO EN

A top commander of Colombia's most powerful crime group has been killed during a security operation, marking a new level of success for authorities while potentially paving the way for more infighting within the increasingly fragmented organization.

Second-in-command of the Urabeños, Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez, alias "Gavilán," was killed during an August 31 operation carried out by military and police officials in Colombia's Urabá region, the group's home turf.

Gavilán, who has been a key figure in Colombia's underworld for more than 20 years, died amid airstrikes and ground attacks led by a military special forces unit as part of Operation Agamemnon II, Colombia's largest ever man-hunt, which until now had failed to take down members of the Urabeños' top leadership.

SEE ALSO: Profile of 'Gavilán'

Gavilán was one of Colombia's most wanted criminals, having moved up the ranks over decades from guerrilla to paramilitary fighter to top leader of the Urabeños. At the time of his death, there were reportedly 22 warrants for his arrest on charges of homicide, conspiracy to commit crime, drug trafficking and forced displacement.

Earlier this week, another large-scale security operation carried out as part of Agamemnon II also led to the killings and arrests of more than a dozen other members of the Urabeños. Among those injured during the operation in Norte de Santander was the criminal group's fifth-in-command, Luis Orlando Padierna Peña, aliases "Inglaterra" and "El Viejo."

InSight Crime Analysis

Authorities' seemingly newfound success in targeting the Urabeños' highest ranks may be attributable to a recent shift that has placed the police, rather than the military, in charge of a joint operation for the first time in Colombia. In June, a second phase of the two-year-old Operation Agamemnon was relaunched under the leadership of General Jorge Luis Vargas, the director of the criminal investigations branch of the national police. And in recent months, authorities have taken down several leaders of the Urabeños, in addition to seizing drugs and other assets from the group.

At the same time, the Urabeños organization is spread thin, and may be on the defensive. As the group's heartland in the jungles of Urabá has come under siege by state forces, the Urabenos have worked to move operations from the northeastern Caribbean region of Colombia to the Pacific. With factions around the country fighting against rivals like the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and the Rastrojos, the group may be having trouble evading or fending off state forces.

SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profile

The recent captures and deaths of top Urabeños leaders will inevitably lead to a restructuring of the Urabeños' leadership, potentially generating further distrust within the group and fueling fights for control over drug trafficking routes. Indeed, even before the heavy blows of these recent security operations, internal frictions were already on the rise. In the months before his death, Gavilán had reportedly had a falling out with the Urabeños' top leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias "Otoniel." Now that Gavilán is no longer in the picture, and other high-ranking leader Inglaterra may be incapacitated by his injuries, Otoniel has a dwindling number of allies in his circle of trusted commanders.

However, even with fractures forming in the Urabeños' leadership, the group's franchise-like structure means that local cells will most likely continue their operations, and their violent expansion, without any significant disruption.

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 / 31 AUG 2011

Colombia’s government announced a “crusade” against illegal logging, vowing to clamp down on the multi-million dollar timber trafficking industry which,…

COLOMBIA / 28 SEP 2021

The recent dismantling of a migrant smuggling ring in Colombia has revealed the routes, corruption networks and modus operandi used…

COLOMBIA / 19 APR 2018

With concerns mounting over the aftermath of Colombia's peace deal with the FARC rebels, Ecuador's government has announced it will…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…