A leader of Medellin criminal syndicate the Oficina de Envigado who was blamed for betraying the organization and causing a wave of violence in the city earlier this year was arrested after a violent gun battle that left three police agents and one suspected gang member dead.
Police arrested Juan Camilo Naranjo Martinez, alias “Gomelo,” in Medellin’s western neighborhood of Comuna 8 on November 4. According to Caracol radio, after being attacked by a grenade, a police patrol followed the perpetrators and were then ambushed by Gomelo’s security detail. At least three policemen were killed and another one wounded. One alleged gang member was killed, while Gomelo was reportedly wounded and taken into custody. Another 27 alleged gang members were arrested.
Gomelo triggered a crisis in Medellin’s Comuna 8 earlier this year when he switched alliances from the Oficina de Envigado to rival criminal group the Urabeños, which is attempting to take over the city neighborhood by neighborhood, as InSight Crime reported at the time.
InSight Crime Analysis
The operation that resulted in Gomelo’s arrest is a reminder of the kind of fierce resistance that the security forces will face when entering neighborhoods that are often controlled by gangs. Consolidating the government’s presence in these peripheral barrios will likely result in a heavy death and injury toll for police, before serious progress is made.
The arrest of Gomelo is also indicative of the new era of the fight against the Medellin cartel, which traces its origins back to the days of Pablo Esocbar. As highlighted in a recent report by El Tiempo, police say there is now no clear criminal heir to the Oficina de Envigado. Leaders alias “Valeciano” and “Sebastian” are in prison, and while there have been rumors of possible shifts in leadership within the organization, it no longer seems as though the Oficina is exerting the same degree of hegemony over Medellin’s underworld.
Instead, Medellin’s criminal landscape now appears to be primarily defined by sophisticated street gangs, which run their mini-empires of extortion and drug trafficking in their respective neighborhoods. Police call these groups ODINs (Organizaciones Delincuenciales Integradas al Narcotrafico – Criminal Organizations Integrated with Drug Trafficking) to distinguish them from the street gangs, or “combos.” As illustrated by Gomelo’s arrest, the task now facing police is taking down these “super combos” one by one.