After five reported members of a local street gang in Bogota were gunned down, a new report suggests the group was earning up to $300,000 a month in drug sales, highlighting the potential profits of micro-trafficking in Colombia’s cities.
Caracol Radio reported that the Pascuales, a gang based in nothern Bogota, have some 20 drug distribution points in the area, each of which bring in 800,000 to 1 million pesos a day. This would put their total monthly income from the drug trade in northern Bogota at some 540 million pesos (over $300,000), although Caracol quotes a far lower monthly figure of 80 million pesos.
According to the radio network, the Pascuales' distribution points are mostly staffed by minors who work under the supervision of more experienced dealers, in order to avoid attracting attention from police.
The Pascuales operate in Bogota's Usaquen neighborhood and have been active since the 1990s. The organization reportedly started out selling "security" services to local residents and businesses, then moved into drug trafficking.
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Five people, thought to be members of the Pascuales, were killed in a firefight in Usaquen on January 7 (see video report, below). The deaths were reportedly linked to a dispute with another group, the Luisitos, over control of drug sales and extortion activities in the area, as national newspaper El Tiempo reported. The numbers quoted by Caracol Radio make it clear that with such high profits from local drug sales at stake, this likely sparked the tensions between the rival gangs and may have driven them to open warfare.
Domestic drug sales have become increasingly important in Colombia in recent years, as the authorities have made it harder for drug traffickers to move their product out of the country. The dismantling of large-scale organizations like the Medellin and Cali Cartels, both of which relied primarily on profits from the transnational drug trade, and the capture of major traffickers like Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, has fragmented Colombia's underworld and made local criminal groups more reliant on the domestic market.
The presence of a growing middle class in Colombia has also helped criminals build up a profitable market for drugs within the country, allowing small groups without international connections to enter the business, and avoid the risks of moving drug shipments across borders.