HomeNewsUrabeños vs. Pachenca - The Fight for Colombia's Port of Santa Marta
NEWS

Urabeños vs. Pachenca - The Fight for Colombia's Port of Santa Marta

COCAINE / 19 AUG 2021 BY JUAN DIEGO POSADA EN

Colombia's northern city of Santa Marta has seen a shocking rise in murders this year as smaller gangs are getting recruited into a larger drug feud.

By early August, 101 homicides had been committed in Santa Marta, capital of the Magdalena department, according to local human rights groups cited by W Radio. This is a sharp rise from the 105 murders registered between January and November 2020 by the Attorney General's Office.

Human rights experts in the city attributed the rise in violence to the expansion into Santa Marta of one of Colombia's largest criminal gangs, the Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan and Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia - AGC). The Urabeños have reportedly been recruiting smaller gangs in the city to work for them, a common tactic they use around the country.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profile

This had put them at odds with the Pachenca, a family clan based in Santa Marta since the 1980s when self-defense groups were created to fight guerrilla groups.

This feud has been ongoing since 2019, but the Urabeños appear to have escalated attempts to control the city in 2021. According to investigators cited by El Espectador, Los Pachenca still dominate the city, controlling 40 percent of microtrafficking, another 40 percent is run by a gang led by local kingpin, Elkin López, alias “La Silla,” and the Urabeños control about 10 percent.

InSight Crime Analysis

Both the Urabeños and the Pachenca have suffered their share of reversals in recent years, and Santa Marta appears to be crucial real estate neither can afford to lose.

Colombian authorities have been trying their best to finally capture Urabeños leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” one of the country's most-wanted men, after having repeatedly arrested his relatives and closest allies.

But the group itself has been expanding in 2021, using franchise tactics to assert control of microtrafficking in crucial cities such as Santa Marta and Barranquilla. The Urabeños have even reportedly gained a foothold in neighboring Venezuela as part of a criminal alliance with another gang, the Rastrojos.

Besides this, gaining control of Santa Marta, one of Colombia's main northern cities on the coast, would allow the Urabeños to expand their dispatching of cocaine shipments north through the Caribbean.

SEE ALSO: Los Pachenca Seek New Sanctuary for Drug Operations at Colombia’s Tip

The Pachenca are probably less ambitious. A smaller group, they have never fully recovered from the death of their commander, Jesús María Aguirre Gallego, alias “Chucho Mercancía," who was shot by Colombian authorities in June 2019.

The group has controlled drug trafficking shipments through Central America and the Caribbean but never on a scale comparable to the Urabeños.

As such, Santa Marta, their historic power base, is a needed source of income from drug trafficking and extortion. In 2020, InSight Crime reported that the Pachenca were making a move into the peninsula of La Guajira to the east of Santa Marta. Still, several arrests may have foiled that attempt.

According to Lerber Dimas, an investigator and professor at the University of Magdalena, a territorial “reorganization” is underway in Santa Marta. Both gangs are trying to control microtrafficking, extortion, and the ports. This could explain the rapid increase in homicides.

“The Urabeños' strategy has been to identify these small neighborhood structures […] endow them with franchises and names, so that they can begin to eliminate the competition, take out smaller groups and usurp territory from other criminal organizations, like the Pachenca,” Dimas told InSight Crime.

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

COCAINE / 17 MAY 2022

Cocaine found on Australia’s Eastern coast has perplexed authorities due to the sophisticated methods apparently used to smuggle it from…

CHINA AND CRIME / 14 MAY 2021

When hundreds of skinned donkeys appeared on Colombia’s northern coast without explanation, locals, and later authorities, started asking questions.

COCAÍNA / 30 JUL 2021

While the amount of coca crops in Colombia has dipped for the third year, the country's cocaine production continues to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…