HomeNewsBriefExplosion in Cali Youth Gangs Fuels Drug Turf War in Colombia
BRIEF

Explosion in Cali Youth Gangs Fuels Drug Turf War in Colombia

COLOMBIA / 31 JAN 2013 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

An official report highlights the startling explosion of youth gangs in the city of Cali, Colombia, feeding the conflict between rival criminal groups the Urabeños and the Rastrojos.

According to a report issued by the Cali Ombudsman's Office, the number of armed teenage gangs identified by the authorities rocketed from 10 in 1992 to 134 in 2012, a more than 13-fold increase. The last three years alone have seen 30 new groups spring up.

Over 2,000 adolescents are now involved in gangs, which commit some 13 percent of murders in the city. They are also involved in drug dealing (microtrafficking), car theft and burglary, and generate internal displacement within the city, as well as constant casual violence.

The report stated that of the 134 gangs, 66 are contracted by neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños or their drug cartel rivals the Rastrojos, who have been fighting a bitter turf war since the Urabeños first moved into the Valle del Cauca region in 2011.  

InSight Crime Analysis

It should come as no surprise that the Urabeños and the Rastrojos are recruiting from the ranks of teenage gangs –- a time-tested method for large drug trafficking organizations in Colombia.

As the report notes, "The gangs serve as a source of cheap labor, easily accessible and, above all, disposable."

The gang members' status as minors, far from acting as a hindrance to recruitment, is actually a bonus for criminal groups, due to the difficulties of prosecuting and incarcerating minors, who in Colombia can only be sent to low-security detention centers and not prisons.

For the gang members, associating with powerful international criminal organizations is a badge of honor that elevates their status among their peers. Many of the youths are willing to take big risks in exchange, making them ideal for the sort of dangerous and violent tasks required by mafias embroiled in a turf war.    

It is no coincidence the number of these gangs has rocketed in the era of large scale drug cartels in the city, beginning with the Cali Cartel, then the Norte del Valle Cartel, and now the feuding Rastrojos and Urabeños. The combination of poverty and lack of opportunities with the huge sums of money available from drug trafficking have created fertile terrain for organized crime, allowing criminal groups to use the city's youth as disposable soldiers.

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 / 15 MAR 2021

A former chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court has been found guilty of corruption in a case that illustrates how…

COLOMBIA / 3 OCT 2022

Colombian guerrillas evolved from seeing Venezuela as a safe place to retreat to seeing it as a full-blown expansion of…

COCA / 1 SEP 2021

Deforestation is the most visible face of environmental crime in Colombia’s Amazon.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…