HomeNewsBriefNew Criminal Alliance Fending Off ELN at Colombia-Venezuela Border
BRIEF

New Criminal Alliance Fending Off ELN at Colombia-Venezuela Border

COLOMBIA / 19 JAN 2021 BY JUAN DIEGO POSADA EN

A new alliance between two of Colombia's main criminal groups is seeking to contest ELN control of lucrative criminal economies along the border with Venezuela.

In mid-January, gun battles forced a dozen families to flee from the rural area of Tibú, a municipality in the northeastern department of Norte de Santander on the Colombia-Venezuela border, according to Caracol Radio. The war was between the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and two irregular armed groups, the Rastrojos and the Urabeños.

Human rights organization Fundación Progresar reported in December that an incursion by the Urabeños, also known as Clan del Golfo (Gulf Clan), into the region had forced more than 80 families to flee.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

The Urabeños are a new player in a protracted two-year fight for the border between the ELN and the Rastrojos. Though the Rastrojos had long controlled drug trafficking, human trafficking and contraband between the two countries, the superior strength of the ELN, as well as backing by the Venezuelan government, put Los Rastrojos on the back foot, with members regularly killed or arrested.

According to an expert who has studied the criminal landscape in Norte de Santander but asked to remain anonymous, Los Rastrojos have turned to the Urabeños to regain control of trails across the border. The source told InSight Crime that the Rastrojos are down to some 80 men, so they turned to the Urabeños, who have also suffered losses to the ELN.

InSight Crime Analysis

Once deadly rivals, the Urabeños and the Rastrojos have been brought together by the ELN's seemingly inexorable rise in Colombia and Venezuela. This determination to not give up ground also reinforces that the remote border trails are some of Latin America's most lucrative criminal real estate.

Once the realm of various competing groups, including the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL), Los Pelusos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), the ELN has come to dominate these trails since the FARC's demobilization in 2016.

The tacit support of the Venezuelan government has only comforted the ELN's position. And last year, the ELN appeared to move more fighters from inside Colombia to the border region, many from the Carlos Germán Velasco Villamizar Front in Cúcuta, under the leadership of alias “Julián” or “Rolo,” a Colombian army source told La Opinion.

SEE ALSO: ELN Gains Upper Hand Over EPL in Norte de Santander, Colombia

It is still uncertain how solid the Urabeños-Rastrojos alliance is, but it makes sense for both groups. The Rastrojos are in dire need of support and the Urabeños have rarely refused favorable alliances, extending their criminal sway through a system of "franchises" across Colombia.

The recent capture of Urabeños members near the border has only reinforced the notion that the group seeks to bolster its presence in Norte de Santander.

It also remains to be seen if this alliance can make a meaningful difference to the rise of the ELN, one of the most severe threats to national security in the region. If so, this conflict could spread to include other major criminal groups operating near the border, such as the ex-FARC Mafia. 

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 / 23 JUL 2021

Once belonging to the demobilized FARC, certain criminal groups seek to reconquer surrendered assets, driving a wave of violence in…

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2021

Long-time leader, Otoniel, President Iván Duque said the gang's "days were numbered." But is that accurate?…

COLOMBIA / 3 MAR 2021

Colombia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, home to some 1,800 species of birds, 600 species of amphibians,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…

WORK WITH US

Work With Us: Research Internship and Editorial Internship

31 OCT 2022

InSight Crime, a think tank dedicated to the study of organized crime and citizen security in the Americas, is seeking interns and investigators to join its dynamic, multinational team.