HomeNoticias'Invisible' Drug Trafficker Joins Forces with Former Enemies in Colombia
NEWS

'Invisible' Drug Trafficker Joins Forces with Former Enemies in Colombia

AUC / 17 FEB 2022 BY LAURA ÁVILA EN

An "invisible" Colombian drug lord whose criminal history dates to the country's former paramilitary army has been revealed to have set up drug routes with dissident guerrilla fighters, showing how the erstwhile enemies are finding new opportunities to advance mutual trafficking interests.

Mario Élber Garzón Escobar, alias "Mario Bros," had managed to evade authorities for years until his arrest February 8 at a luxurious estate in the Quindío department, El Tiempo reported. Accused of drug trafficking, Garzón is alleged to be the main representative for the Urabeños – also known as the Gulf Clan – and to be responsible for coordinating cocaine shipments to Honduras and Mexico, as well as to Africa and Europe.

Additionally, Garzón was in charge of establishing contact with other criminal groups. Among these was the Second Marquetalia, one of the dissident factions of the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), under the command of Luciano Marín Arango, alias "Iván Márquez," according to El Tiempo.

Since 2008, the Urabeños have disputed control of transnational drug trafficking operations with various criminal groups, including the FARC, which demobilized in 2016. The Urabeños, under the leadership of Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias "Otoniel" – who was arrested in October of last year – continued to engage in turf wars with ex-fighters who made up disparate ex-FARC mafia cells.

As part of the evidence collected in the investigation against Mario Bros, the Attorney General’s Office indicated that Garzón met with Second Marquetalia leader Henry Castellanos, alias “Romaña,” who was recently killed. The meeting, which took place in July 2019 in the Venezuelan state of Apure, was to negotiate trafficking routes for the movement of cocaine to the north, according to prosecutors.

SEE ALSO: The Urabeños After Otoniel - What Becomes of Colombia's Largest Criminal Threat?

The strategic alliance forged by Garzón was meant to guarantee the Urabeños’ drug shipments through areas where the Second Marquetalia maintains a presence. With the agreement, the Urabeños quashed the need to dispute the territory, not only with this faction of the extinct FARC, but also with other criminal groups with greater influence on the Colombia-Venezuela border.

InSight Crime Analysis

The meeting of the two former enemies suggests that the Urabeños and the Second Marquetalia have put aside bitter differences for mutual benefit when it comes to trafficking opportunities, and that Garzón was critical to forging these new ties.

Garzón's criminal history dates back to the Central Bolivar Bloc (BCB), a powerful paramilitary faction of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), a coalition of right-wing death squads that committed some of the worst atrocities during the country's 50-year conflict.

According to a source contacted by InSight Crime within the Oficina de Envigado, a mafia based in Medellín, the head of the paramilitary structure in 2006, Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias “Macaco,” contacted the drug lord Guillermo León Valencia, alias “Memo Fantasma,” to finance the AUC’s expansion to the Llanos Orientales region in eastern Colombia. As a result, an intermediary sent by Memo delivered 4,000 million pesos ($1,773,851.65 dollars) for the purchase of 1,000 kilograms of cocaine. The person designated as the messenger was Mario Bros.

Little was known of Garzón before 2014, when a criminal court in Medellín convicted him of charges of criminal conspiracy. He was released in 2017. Two years later, his low profile and strategic contacts made him the ideal person to manage the Urabeños' relations with other criminal groups.

The Urabeños didn't only establish an alliance with the Second Marquetalia on the border with Venezuela. In mid-2021, the Urabeños consolidated a fighting force called the "Cordillera Sur" in Nariño and Cauca. There, the force and the Second Marquetalia battled with rebel fighters of the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional - ELN) to control cocaine production. 

While the alliance between the Urabeños and the Second Marquetalia appears to be beneficial for both groups, it is uncertain whether it will hold. For example, in Antioquia, the relationship between the groups has been anything but peaceful. During the second half of 2021, violent confrontations broke out between the Urabeños and the 18th Front of the FARC dissidents, an ally of the Second Marquetalia. The clashes in the muicipality of Ituango were over control of the Nudo de Paramillo, one of the main drug trafficking corridors to northwestern Colombia.

*Juliana Manjarrés contributed to the analysis of this article

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 / 8 SEP 2011

Colombia's president has appointed a new defense minister, changed the entire military high command and promised an extra $550 million…

COLOMBIA / 18 SEP 2020

In Santander, Colombia, timber traders corrupted regulatory, police and judicial systems on their way to trafficking untold amounts of wood…

ECUADOR / 9 AUG 2016

Recent reports suggest that dissident members of Colombia's main guerrilla group have begun forming new criminal structures in Ecuador, raising…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…