HomeNewsBriefHuge Cocaine Lab Bust Reveals Colombia's Challenges for Peace
BRIEF

Huge Cocaine Lab Bust Reveals Colombia's Challenges for Peace

COLOMBIA / 27 JUL 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Colombia's seizure of a huge cocaine production complex is a clear sign that the drug trade is as strong as ever in the country's far south, a lucrative crime hub that could pose a series of threats to the imminent "post conflict" era.

Authorities have destroyed 27 structures dedicated to the production of coca base and cocaine in Colombia's remote southern region of Putumayo, according to a police press release. Cocaine labs in the Colombian countryside are typically rudimentary structures covered with plastic and equipped with low-tech hardware.

The laboratories were discovered near the Ecuadoran border during a five-day joint operation between the Colombian police, military forces and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Together they produced an estimated 48 to 50 metric tons of drugs per year.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Cocaine Production

During the operation authorities seized 616 kilograms of cocaine, around 1 metric ton of coca base and nearly 60,600 liters of precursor chemicals, which would be discarded in nearby rivers during the production process.

The complex was allegedly owned by the Constru, a criminal organization made up of former paramilitaries and local criminals. From Putumayo the cocaine would be trafficked to Brazil and then Africa, or to Central America via the Pacific coast, according to the police report.

InSight Crime Analysis

Putumayo is one of Colombia's biggest coca-producing regions, and the Constru have been involved in drug trafficking in the area for some time. This criminal network is believed to work directly with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), who sell the Constru coca base and provide protection for its operations. The guerrilla group keeps the majority of the proceeds, and contracts the Constru for killings and attacks.

However, this most recent police report states that a year ago, the Constru sealed an alliance with the Urabeños -- the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the country -- and is selling them cocaine in order to gain access to new trafficking routes.

It is unclear what this new alliance means for the Constru's relationship with the FARC. Although a March 2016 report by the Ombudsman's Office accessed by InSight Crime indicated that an alliance between the Constru and the FARC's 48th Front still existed, it is possible that the Constru has switched allegiances as the guerrilla group nears a demobilization agreement with the Colombian government.

The FARC controls a large part of the nation's drug trade and has been engaged in peace negotiations since 2012. Advances in the peace process have given rise to fears of a criminal power vacuum once the guerrillas turn in their weapons.

SEE ALSO:  FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

Considering these scenarios, the "post conflict" in Putumayo may play out in a number of ways. The steep profits generated by the southern department's cocaine trade heighten the risk that local FARC units will ignore eventual calls to disarm and continue running their operations. And it would be hard to stop them from doing so -- the Urabeños' military presence in Putumayo is too weak to take on the FARC, or to defend the Constru from any retaliation by the guerrilla group against this new alliance.

Should the FARC in Putumayo choose to demobilize rather than criminalize, however, the Constru is well placed to step in to the void the insurgents leave behind.

Indeed, an inevitable nationwide shift in Colombia's criminal dynamics has already been set into motion. While alliances between armed actors do contribute to the relatively smooth operation of the drug industry, violent clashes are occurring between a number of rival groups over control of FARC territories.

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 / 13 OCT 2014

Colombia is developing a legal framework to facilitate the surrender and collective prosecution of criminal groups, seeking to avoid repeating…

COLOMBIA / 29 SEP 2011

Indigenous and Afro-Colombian protesters forced the authorities to suspend aerial fumigation of coca crops in north-west Colombia after large…

COLOMBIA / 12 OCT 2015

Con la violencia en bajos niveles históricos en algunos lugares de Latinoamérica y en alzas sin precedentes en otros, la…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…