While the underworld in Rosario, Argentina, is dominated by large criminal groups like the Monos, a lower-profile group carved out a profitable land-grabbing scheme in the city over several years.
The case of a group, known as the Colorados, is a strong example of this. On June 25, three members of the Colorados were charged for operating a long-running property theft scheme in the city.
They were arrested after a lengthy investigation into the group’s forceful seizures of homes and land in Nuevo Alberdi, a district within the central city of Rosario, as well as ties to the local police force.
In order to seize properties, the group reportedly first sent intimidating messages to those living on plots they had targeted. Then, members of the Colorados would try to force people to flee by opening fire or throwing Molotov cocktails at the houses. Once residents had fled, they moved in. The group then illegally rented out or sold the properties, or even turned them into drug trafficking safehouses, Argentine newspaper La Capital reported, citing sources within the investigation.
While the timeline of the group’s creation is unclear, the Colorados have been known since at least 2015. However, their activities seem to have escalated in recent months, with multiple individuals reporting that their properties in Rosario had been taken over.
Besides the use of certain properties as drug trafficking safehouses, there is no information as to whether the Colorados were involved in other criminal economies.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rosario has a long and complex criminal landscape, mostly dominated by the Monos, a large, family-run criminal gang connected to drug trafficking, murder, child recruitment and corruption. But a focus on a single, larger gang may have allowed smaller groups, with a more focused modus operandi, to operate under the radar.
The relations Rosario’s police maintain with criminal groups may also have helped. In addition to the three arrests within the Colorados, a Nuevo Alberdi police chief was arrested on suspicion of having solicited a bribe of 50,000 Argentine pesos (around $520) to free a member of the Colorados from prison. Rosario police officers have been alleged to turn a blind eye to local drug trafficking in the city and have been found guilty of membership in criminal organizations in the past.
The Colorados may have also benefited from the weakening of the Romero Clan, also based in Rosario, according to police investigators cited by La Capital. While the Romero Clan received significant attention for its clashes with Los Monos for control of microtrafficking in Rosario, the group has also been a rival of the Colorados, carrying out similar land seizure schemes in Nuevo Alberdi, according to El Ciudadano.