HomeNewsColombia Decides EPL is No Longer Major Threat
NEWS

Colombia Decides EPL is No Longer Major Threat

COLOMBIA / 19 APR 2021 BY JUAN DIEGO CÁRDENAS EN

Colombia has downgraded the threat level of one of the country's oldest criminal groups, which means fewer resources and troops will go toward fighting it. This only confirms the EPL's continued downward spiral.

Last week, Colombia's director of the national police, General Jorge Luis Vargas, told Congress that the threat level of the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación - EPL) was being downgraded from an Organized Armed Group (Grupo Armado Organizado - GAO) to an Organized Criminal Group (Grupo Delictivo Organizado - GDO). This is the first such downgrade of a criminal organization since this system was put in place in 2016.

According to Vargas, the continued success of security operations against the EPL has reduced the group's criminal and territorial control.

In 2018, the police launched Operation Esparta against the EPL. Since then, 61 separate operations have reduced the group's numbers from 535 to 235, the general explained.

SEE ALSO: New Criminal Alliance Fending Off ELN at Colombia-Venezuela Border

A number of recent setbacks have left the EPL's latest leader Robinson Quintero, alias "Macho," increasingly isolated, including the arrests of EPL leaders known as "Candado," "Chucho Negro" and "Pita" in the border towns of Cúcuta, Zulia and Ocaña, according to La Opinión

“After [EPL leader Victor Navarro], alias 'Megateo,' was killed in 2015, top leaders have not lasted long within the criminal structure. We're stopping them within three to six months, as occurred with...alias 'Pácora' in 2019. This has led to...the desertion of members,” General Fredy Tibaduiza, commander of Colombian police along the Venezuelan border, told Caracol Radio.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is uncertain how exactly the resources dedicated to fighting the EPL will vary with this downgrade. But it confirms this once-feared group is a shadow of its former self.

According to the categories implemented by the Ministry of Defense, the status of a GDO means the army will no longer be deployed to fight the EPL, only the police.

This seemed to be an inevitable conclusion to a series of bad decisions made by the EPL, as well as the security operations.

SEE ALSO: Colombia’s EPL Bitterly Divided Between Political, Drug Trafficking Factions

The start of the EPL's decline can be traced back to the death of Navarro in 2015 at the hands of the Colombian army. But since that time, a series of successors have been unable to unite the group, and divisions between its political wing and drug trafficking elements have become more pronounced.

Leaders came and went. Reinaldo Peñaranda Franco, alias "Pepe," was arrested in 2018 before Luis Antonio Quiceno Sanjuan, alias "Pácora," was killed in October 2019.

A nascent civil war saw one of the group's top drug traffickers sentenced to death by a revolutionary war council in May 2020.

At the same time, the group sought to rejuvenate itself by conquering other groups. However, an attempt to establish a presence along the Naya River drug trafficking route in the southwestern Cauca department failed.

The EPL has also been pushed back from its heartland of Catatumbo, a coca-growing area in the department of Norte de Santander, by its fiercest enemy: the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN). Not even an alliance with the Rastrojos, which is also an enemy of the ELN, has changed the equation.

As InSight Crime predicted, the divisions of the EPL will likely lead to fragmentation into factions divided by political or criminal interests. The current, weak leadership of Quintero may be the final chapter of the EPL as a united organization.

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 / 3 SEP 2020

The coronavirus pandemic sparked a shift in Colombia as criminal actors the nation over sought to profit from the sudden…

COCA / 23 MAR 2017

InSight Crime takes a closer look at shifts in coca cultivation trends in 19 of Colombia's departments based on the…

COLOMBIA / 17 MAR 2011

The Insititute of Studies for Development and Peace (Instituto de Estudios Para el Desarrollo y la Paz –…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.