An alleged head of Colombia's criminal syndicate the Oficina de Envigado has been captured in Panama, a new blow to the increasingly splintered and weakened group, which could further escalate the mafia war in Medellin.
According to Colombian authorities, "Pichi," whose real name Edison Rodolfo Rojas, took over the running of the several factions of the Oficina de Envigado after the arrest of Erick Vargas Cardenas, alias "Sebastian," in August last year. He was captured in a joint operation between Panamanian and Colombian police in Panama City on February 9, reported newspaper El Colombiano.
(See InSight Crime's profile of the Oficina de Envigado)
Pichi is suspected of being behind the massacre of nine people in Medellin last December as part of an ongoing battle to control the Oficina -- an allegation he denied in a letter to newspaper El Tiempo in January.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated police via Twitter for what he called a "good hit," also thanking Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
InSight Crime Analysis
The leadership of the Oficina de Envigado and Medellin drug trade have been in flux since the extradition of Diego Murillo, alias "Don Berna," in 2008, with Pichi thought to have risen to power last year.
As reported by InSight Crime, different factions of the Medellin underworld have fought fiercely to control the city and reunite the Oficina, while attempting to stem the invasion of another criminal gang in the city, the neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños.
Meanwhile, authorities have further weakened the group with the capture of five of its top members during 2012, including Sebastian, who's thought to have led the Oficina unopposed since November 2011.
Police intelligence suggested December's massacre took place during a meeting to discuss who would be promoted to fill leadership positions, and that Pichi had ordered the killings. His capture leaves another gap in the Oficina's leadership, with no clear successor.
Pichi is also wanted in connection with the murder of two counter-narcotics officers in Medellin in July last year.