HomeNewsBriefUrabeños Reactivate Montes de María Drug Route in Northern Colombia
BRIEF

Urabeños Reactivate Montes de María Drug Route in Northern Colombia

COCAINE / 8 SEP 2020 BY LARA LOAIZA EN

Reports that the Urabeños are re-activating an old drug trafficking route in Montes de María, Colombia, may suggest that it has been pushed to do so due to losing power in other parts of the country.

On September 2, the governor of Sucre, Héctor Olimpo Espinosa, announced plans to support communities and social leaders in Montes de María to avoid rising criminality there.

This was in response to a spike in violence in recent months in the mountain range along Colombia's northern Caribbean coast, including a number of homicides and displacements of families around the municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar in recent months.

The targeted killings and threats against social leaders have been a constant of late, with one union leader and three land restitution activists having been killed and another community leader forced to flee. In July, houses in the municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar were tagged with graffiti, bearing the initials of the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), a coalition of paramilitary groups from which the Urabeños separated.

SEE ALSO: Urabeños Profile

An increase in violence and extortion in the towns are likely connected to efforts by the Urabeños to expand its influence over Montes de María since 2018, as reported by the Ombudsman's Office.

In February 2020, an alert from the Ombusdman's Office stated that armed men belonging to the Urabeños in El Carmen de Bolívar were "safeguarding drug trafficking routes” and had expanded their control there since arriving in 2018.

The municipalities of El Carmen de Bolívar and the nearby municipality of San Onofre are crucial points along a longstanding drug route that connects coca-producing areas controlled by the Urabeños in southern Bolívar and Bajo Cauca, as well as cocaine processing centers in southern Córdoba department and Magdalena Medio to the Gulf of Morrosquillo, a major departure point for cocaine shipments to Central America, the United States and Europe.

In August, a shipment of cocaine seemingly bound for Costa Rica was seized in the Gulf of Morrosquillo, reinforcing concerns the Urabeños are using the mountain range as a major drug transit route.

And their use of Montes de María may drive violence in another way. According to Luis Fernando Trejos, a professor and investigator from the Department of Political Science and International Relations for the Universidad del Norte, local criminal groups are being hired by the Urabeños to carry and traffic drugs in exchange for money and weapons.

InSight Crime Analysis

Urabeños activity in the region would dredge up a lot of historical trauma for the residents of Montes de María. In the early 2000s, the mountain range was a hotbed of paramilitary activity, leaving behind a tragic history of massacres and violence.

Following the demobilization of the AUC, Montes de María was declared "free of the effects of armed conflict." Since then, the region had seen violence die down.

SEE ALSO: Bojayá: Colombia’s First Violent Flashpoint of 2020

But the Urabeños have been under dramatic pressure elsewhere in the country. A targeted campaign by Colombian armed forces, known as Operation Agamemnon II, has been putting pressure on the Urabeños in their historical backyard of Urabá. In July, 7.5 tons of cocaine, reportedly belonging to the group and with a street value of around $286 million, were seized from a ship sailing from Colombia to Panama, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile, in Bajo Cauca, Antioquia and Sur de Córdoba, the group has clashed with the Caparrapos and elements of the ex-FARC Mafia, a conflict that has only intensified in recent months.

The group’s presence in the Pacific has also been affected, due to the rising strength of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and its control of shipment points along the Pacific Coast.

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 / 15 MAR 2017

Venezuelan authorities recently announced cocaine seizures of almost three metric tons, illustrating the persistent flow of drugs on the…

COLOMBIA / 15 AUG 2011

Peru's new president has vowed to take a hard line against the country’s Shining Path guerrillas, and appears to have…

COLOMBIA / 22 MAR 2013

Colombian police have seized over $1 million worth of contraband cigarettes and alcohol, breaking up a smuggling operation of the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Criminal Enterprise on the High Seas

12 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an extensive investigation into Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that plagues the waters of nine Latin American countries. Among the stories were how…

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…