HomeNoticiasQuibdó: The New Epicenter of Violence in Northwestern Colombia

Quibdó: The New Epicenter of Violence in Northwestern Colombia


The end of an alliance between two local gangs is creating a volatile security situation in the northwest Colombian city of Quibdó, with larger criminal groups perhaps arriving to make the situation worse.

Quibdó, the capital of Colombia's northwestern department of Chocó, has experienced an increase in violence in recent weeks. Curfews, the recruitment of minors, threats, and rules imposed by the gangs have shaken the tranquility of this town of 120,000 where, according to its bishop, Juan Carlos Barreto, homicides are already well above the national average.

Behind this spike in violence is the dissolution of an alliance between two local gangs: Los Mexicanos and Los Palmeños, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

The two gangs have teamed up in the past to take on the Urabeños, a criminal group that emerged from the ashes of Colombia's paramilitary demobilization, and to block the Urabeños' access to the city's criminal economies. But now, differences between the gangs' leaders appear to have led to a war, in which they vie for control of micro-trafficking and extortion activities in Quibdó.

SEE ALSO: The Endless War to Control Northwest Colombia's Drug Routes

Quibdó is no stranger to the criminality and conflict that have long wracked the department. In recent years, the city has received thousands of forcibly displaced persons, who are fleeing confrontations between the Urabeños and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) in the remotest areas of Chocó.

InSight Crime Analysis

Amidst this local gang conflict, still more alarming for Quibdó's residents is the possible arrival of criminal groups with a greater capacity for war.

Quibdó's local Mexicanos gang is rumored to have formed an alliance with the ELN, while the Urabeños already have a presence in the city. This is sparking fear among the civilian population that these larger criminal groups, whose clashes are currently concentrated in the south of Chocó department, could be behind the Quibdó surge as well.

The ELN and the Urabeños started waging war in Chocó in 2018. The department is strategically located for criminal economies such as drug trafficking, illegal mining and migrant smuggling.

However, the conflict between the two groups has escalated since mid-2021, with the Urabeños seeking to gain territory that has historically belonged to the guerrilla group. Additionally, blows by the Colombian army against ELN leaders have weakened the guerrilla group's presence in the region, possibly motivating it to seek out more local criminal alliances. 

SEE ALSO: Buenaventura's Everlasting Cycle of Violence Continues in Colombia

This type of proxy conflict is commonplace is Colombia. The port city of Buenaventura, located in the neighboring department of Valle del Cauca, provides a good example of how local dynamics can play into the interests of large criminal groups.

In Buenaventura, a small gang known as La Local has managed to impose its criminal rule in the important port municipality through an alliance with the Urabeños, while other groups like the ELN and dissident groups of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) have tried to establish a presence in the city.

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 / 23 MAR 2016

Proponents of enduring peace in Colombia are warning that an agreement taking shape to end over 50 years of civil…

COLOMBIA / 22 NOV 2011

The discovery of an illicit poppy field in Ecuador draws attention to increasing production of heroin in Latin America, with…

COLOMBIA / 30 JUL 2019

Colombia’s homicide rate has risen for the first time in a decade, reflecting renewed conflicts between criminal groups in strategic…

About InSight Crime


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,…


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…


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…


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…


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…