HomeNewsBriefDrug Clashes Spark Humanitarian Crisis: Colombia Ombudsman
BRIEF

Drug Clashes Spark Humanitarian Crisis: Colombia Ombudsman

COLOMBIA / 23 OCT 2015 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

Colombia's Ombudsman's office says a struggle between guerrillas and neo-paramilitaries over drug routes through the Pacific department of Choco has caused a humanitarian crisis. These developments were likely put in motion by a security surge in a neighboring region. 

The Ombudsman's office raised a temporary alert in northern Choco as Marxist guerrilla groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) clashed with former narco-paramilitary group the Urabeños, reported El Espectador.

At least five clashes have taken place in less than a week, and Jorge Enrique Calero, a director at the Ombudsman's office, said that 159 people from the town of Riociego were displaced after "heavily armed men in uniforms" occupied their homes.

A temporary camp has been set up for the displaced victims. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The fighting in Choco is likely the indirect result of security efforts against the Urabeños in their traditional stronghold, the sub-region of Uraba. 

A large portion of Uraba encircles the Gulf of Uraba, which connects with the Caribbean and was used by the Urabeños as their primary international drug route. But that has changed with the launch of "Agamemnon," a police operation targeting Urabeños leader Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel." 

Headquartered in the town of Necocli -- once a primary drug-departure and arms-entry point for the Urabeños and their paramilitary predecessors -- Agamemnon counts on a force of roughly 1,500 police units and dedicated Blackhawk helicopter support. Although the operation has yet to catch Otoniel, it has succeeded in drastically curtailing Urabeños drug shipments passing through the Gulf of Uraba. 

In response, the criminal group has sent a significant number of operators into Choco, intelligence sources told InSight Crime. The Urabeños are particularly interested in securing rivers such as Rio Sucio and Rio Atrato, which could be used to access drug routes on Colombia's Pacific coast, the sources added. 

This has brought the Urabeños into conflict with Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the FARC, which traditionally conducts drug trafficking operations in these areas. The guerrillas have agreed to exit the drug trade as part of a possible peace agreement. However, recent field investigations by InSight Crime in the area indicate that FARC commanders are likely trying to stockpile drug money in anticipation of an end to the conflict. 

SEE ALSO: FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

So while the FARC has been willing to cooperate with and sell coca base to the Urabeños in other areas of Colombia, their conflicting interests in Choco make fighting inevitable. 

For the moment the Urabeños may be benefiting from some lucky timing. Their incursions have reportedly brought them into conflict with the FARC's 57th Front, which has lost a series of commanders in recent years, including 36-year guerrilla veteran Jose David Suarez, alias “El Becerro," in March. Sources in Panama and Colombia have told InSight Crime that former Panamanian police official Jose Luis Valencia Mosquera Asprilla, alias "El Pana," has replaced El Becerro, but the 57th Front remains in disarray. 

The dynamics could change rapidly however, as intelligence sources have told InSight Crime that FARC heavyweight Jose Benito Cabrera, alias "Fabian Ramirez," has been deployed to the area. Fabian Ramirez is credited with greatly advancing FARC drug operations in the southern department of Caqueta, in addition to a series of major military victories. 

15-10-22-ChocoMap

Map of FARC and Urabeños territory

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

ARGENTINA / 30 MAY 2012

The case of a shady Balkan crime network sheds light on the ways that the South American drug trade has…

COLOMBIA / 30 JAN 2018

In a sign of waning confidence in the negotiations that could lead to their unraveling, Colombia's government has suspended peace…

COLOMBIA / 20 JUL 2018

In our July 19 Facebook Live session, Managing Editor Josefina Salomón and Senior Investigator Angela Olaya discussed the ex guerrillas'…

About InSight Crime

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…

THE ORGANIZATION

Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…