HomeNewsTop Ex-Colombian Officers' Trafficking Case Recalls Past Abuses

Top Ex-Colombian Officers' Trafficking Case Recalls Past Abuses


Three retired Colombian army commanders have been accused of belonging to a criminal network that served the Urabeños drug clan, in a case illustrating how the highest ranks of Colombia's armed forces continue to be accused of colluding in trafficking activities.

According to a 663-page investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, retired General Leonardo Alfonso Barrero Gordillo is alleged to have conspired with accused trafficker Juan Larinson Castro, alias “Matamba,” the leader of the Urabeños structure known as the Cordillera Sur, Blu Radio reported. Barrero Gordillo, a 38-year veteran and commander of Colombia's military from August 2013 to February 2014, has not been formally charged and has denied the allegations.

Also named in the investigation are retired colonels Harry Leonardo Gómez Tabares, alias “Júpiter,” and Robinson Javier González del Río, alias “Coro” or “Comando.” Both men were arrested in early February and face charges that include criminal conspiracy.

According to the investigation, Matamba – who was arrested in October of last year – controlled cocaine production and trafficking in four municipalities in Nariño, a department along the Pacific coast of southern Colombia. Prosecutors say that Matamba counted on retired and active military personnel to provide him with a "criminal monopoly" in the region. This included conducting operations against another criminal group in the area controlled by alias Sábalo.

Matamba was also provided with military intelligence and the location of troops. Military personnel and paraphernalia were also used in the purchase and transport of cocaine, according to the investigation.

Barrero Gordillo was named 74 times in the investigation, in which he was also referred to as "El Padrino," or "the Godfather." A judge from Pasto had previously approved an arrest warrant against him, but prosecutors later requested that it be revoked on the basis of insufficient evidence.

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

Both Barrero Gordillo and González del Río have been accused of war crimes during Colombia's conflict. They were previously tied to the assassination of civilians who were then presented as enemy combatants, known as the false positives scandal.

González del Río was convicted of participating in two false-positive cases. He also admitted to participating in 26 similar cases during testimony before Colombia's Special Justice for Peace (Justicia Especial para la Paz – JPE), through which he regained his freedom. Barrero Gordillo also testified before the peace court, acknowledging that at least 220 false-positive cases occurred under his command.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia's military has a long and dark history of collusion with traffickers, dating to their support of paramilitary armies that fueled themselves through cocaine trafficking.

One of the first cases to reveal drug ties reaching the highest level of Colombia’s security forces was that of Mauricio Santoyo, a police general who pleaded guilty to having links with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), the country’s former paramilitary army and one of the world’s largest trafficking groups. Santoyo was accused of taking millions in drug bribes from the AUC and Medellin-based criminal syndicate the Oficina de Envigado between 2000 and 2008.

In 2012, former Colombian Army intelligence chief Pauselino Latorre was sentenced to 13 years in prison after he was convicted of acting as a frontman for Carlos Aguirre Babativa, alias "El Señor," who was extradited to the US on drug charges.

More recently, in 2019, the former head of the Recruitment and Control of Reserves Command, Elkin Alfonso Argote Hidalgo, was removed from office after being arrested along with Miguel Antonio Bastidas, alias “Gargola,” the head of a trafficking group known as “La Constru."

Army counterintelligence documents, published by Caracol in 2021, gave an account of the relationship between two generals and two lieutenant colonels with the Barros family clan, an ally of the Urabeños. According to the documents, the military gave orders to allow the group to continue its criminal activities in the Guajira department.

SEE ALSO: Allies in High Places Behind 'La Constru' Rise in Colombia

Some military officials have continued to justify their links to drug trafficking groups. In January of this year, Sixth Division Commander General Jorge Hernando Herrera Díaz was dismissed from his post following allegations of colluding with a trafficking group in a war against dissidents from the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC). The commander acknowledged the alliance, saying “that’s war."

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.


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.


Related Content

COLOMBIA / 13 FEB 2023

Seizures of creepy marijuana from Colombia are popping around Latin America. But is the situation as creepy as it looks?…

COLOMBIA / 14 JUN 2022

The Colombian army has killed two more important dissident FARC leaders in the north and the west of the country.


The owner of an armored transport company has been charged for his part in a transnational dirty gold network that…

About InSight Crime


All Eyes on Ecuador

2 JUN 2023

Our coverage of organized crime in Ecuador continues to be a valuable resource for international and local news outlets. Internationally, Reuters cited our 2022 Homicide Round-Up,…


Open Position: Social Media and Engagement Strategist

27 MAY 2023

InSight Crime is looking for a Social Media and Engagement Strategist who will be focused on maintaining and improving InSight Crime’s reputation and interaction with its audiences through publishing activities…


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.