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Sep 172009

Colombia has demobilized or arrested many of the country’s top narcotraffickers in recent years. The North Valle Cartel, which dominated the cocaine trade in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is almost fully dismantled.

Yet the amount of cocaine being produced in Colombia has barely changed. There are still criminal organizations and armed groups producing massive quantities of the drug and shipping it out of the country. But with the extraditions of top paramilitary and cartel figures in recent years, there are a lot of new faces. Some of those faces may in fact be Mexican.

In its edition published today, the Colombian newsweekly Cambio attempts to identify “the new drug cartels” dominating the trade. The image reproduced below is available as a much higher-quality PDF on their website. This rundown may be oversimplified and may contain inaccuracies because the fluid nature of the drug underground is difficult to pin down. Still, it is the most helpful guide to the “new narcos” that we have seen this year.

Click here or on the map to download the graphic as a PDF. Here is an English translation of its text.

  • Pale green in western Córdoba and western Antioquia: Los Urabaños”
    Chief: Juan de Dios Úsuga [pictured in upper left], “Giovanni,” successor of Daniel Rendón, “don Mario” [who was captured by Colombian police in April].
    Members: Between 1,000 and 1,500 men.
    Zone of influence: Urabá.
    Mexican partners: “Los Zetas” [also known as the Gulf Cartel or "La Compañía].
    Routes: Gulf of Urabá-Mexico.
    Transport: Riverine and maritime.
  • Mint green in the rest of Córdoba and Antioquia: “Los Paisas”
    Chief: Ángel de Jesús Pacheco, “Sebastián,” successor of Diego Murillo, “Don Berna” [an AUC leader extradited to the United States in May 2008]. In a dispute with “Beto” and “Valenciano.”
    Members: Between 400 and 800 men.
    Zone of influence: Córdoba and Antioquia.
    Mexican partners: The Beltrán Leyva brothers [a faction of the Sinaloa cartel], allies of “Los Zetas.”
    Routes: Gulf of Morrosquillo [coast of Sucre]-Mexico.
    Transport: Aerial and maritime.
  • Orange in Chocó: “Renacer” [Rebirth]
    Chief: “Raúl.”
    Members: Between 80 and 150 men.
    Zone of influence: Chocó.
    Mexican partners: Not known.
    Routes: Pacific-Mexico.
    Transport: Maritime.
  • Orange in Valle del Cauca: “Los Machos”
    Chief: “don H,” successor of the Calima Bloc [of the AUC].
    Members: Between 50 and 100 men.
    Zone of influence: Valle del Cauca.
    Mexican partners: Not known.
    Routes: Pacific-Mexico.
    Transport: Maritime.
  • Orange in Nariño: “Nueva Generación” [New Generation]
    Chief: “El Tigre”
    Members: Between 100 and 200 men.
    Zone of influence: Nariño.
    Mexican partners: Not known.
    Routes: Pacific-Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and maritime.
  • Orange in Cauca: “Los Rastrojos” [Literally, what is left behind in a cane field after harvest]
    Chiefs: Luis Enrique [pictured in bottom center] and Javier Calle Serna, successors of [top North Valle Cartel figure] Wílber Varela, “Jabón.”
    Members: Between 300 and 500 men.
    Zones of influence: Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Chocó, Norte de Santander, southern Bolívar.
    Mexican partners: Nacho Coronel, Vicente Carrillo and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán [Sinaloa cartel].
    Routes: Colombia-Panama, and ports on the Pacific.
    Transport: Riverine and maritime.
  • Light blue in Meta, Guaviare, Guainía, Vichada and Arauca: “Ejército Revolucionario Popular Antiterrorista Colombiano (ERPAC)” [Colombian Popular Antiterrorist Revolutionary Army]
    Chiefs: Pedro Oliveiro, “Cuchillo” ["Knife," photo in lower right], and Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, AUC leaders who did not demobilize.
    Members: Between 700 and 1,000 men.
    Zones of influence: Meta, Guaviare, Vichada, Guainía and Arauca.
    Mexican partners: Nacho Coronel, Vicente Carrillo and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán [Sinaloa cartel].
    Route: Colombia-Venezuela-Dominican Republic-Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and aerial.
  • Dark blue in the Magdalena Medio region: “Magdalena Medio”
    Chief: Ovidio Isaza, “Roque,” successor of Ramón Isaza [former AUC bloc leader] and Carlos Mario Jiménez, “Macaco” [AUC leader extradited to the United States in May 2008].
    Zone of influence: Madgalena Medio.
    Mexican partners: Not known.
    Route: Colombia-Venezuela-Caribbean islands-Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and aerial.
  • Dark green in Putumayo: FARC 48th Front
    Zone of influence: Putumayo.
    Members: Between 400 and 500 men.
    Mexican partner: Tijuana cartel.
    Route: Orito and San Miguel, Putumayo – Ecuador – Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and maritime.
  • Red silhouettes in Cauca and Valle del Cauca: FARC 30th Front
    Zone of influence: Valle del Cauca and Cauca.
    Members: Between 100 and 200 men.
    Mexican partner: Tijuana cartel.
    Route: Buenaventura-Ecuador-Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and maritime.
  • Dark green silhouette in Chocó: FARC 57th Front
    Zone of influence: Chocó.
    Members: Between 200 and 300 men.
    Mexican partners: Not known.
    Route: Dari̩n [Panama-Colombia border zone] РPanama РMexico.
    Transport: Riverine and maritime.
  • Light green silhouette in Meta: FARC 44th and 27th Fronts
    Zone of influence: Meta.
    Members: Between 200 and 300 men.
    Mexican partner: Tijuana cartel.
    Route: Colombia-Venezuela-Mexico.
    Transport: Riverine, overland, aerial and maritime.
  • Black silhouette in Guainía: FARC 16th Front
    Zone of influence: Guainía.
    Members: Between 50 and 100.
    Mexican partners: Tijuana and Federal District cartels.
    Routes: Cumaribo, Vichada-Ecuador-Mexico and Venezuela-Mexico.
    Transport: Overland and maritime.

7 Responses to “Cambio on “the new cartels””

  1. Camilo Wilson Says:

    No surprise, really. Consider the conditions: high levels of poverty and social exclusion, high level of public corruption (48,000 public officials are currently under investigation for corruption, according to El Tiempo), the large number of displaced Colombians, the low value placed on the common good, and a widespread culture of violence and lawlessness.

    A good starting point to address the drugs problem would be to look for a negotiated solution to the longstanding armed conflict. Any negotiated solution, of course, would have to address the country’s grim socioeconomic reality. The political will for a negotiated solution, in large part because any viable solution would have to address that reality, is profoundly lacking in Colombia.

  2. Kyle Says:

    I read this earlier today and I thought it there was wayyyy to much over-simplification and seemingly very surface-level investigation. Honestly, it’s not useless but it’s not useful either. I’d rather see two more weeks work done and come out (later) with a much better final product. Sorry to be so harsh on Cambio, but simply put, it’s not good enough to really be a strong source for me. It’s a good starting point to then improve/perfect with better work, but as published, it struggles. Interesting though, without a doubt.

  3. Marcos Says:

    Camilo Wilson: Everything you’ve listed, except displacement and conflict-related violence, is also present in countries right next door to Colombia (and I don’t mean just two of them, before you lash out), as well as in other parts of the world.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to think of the international scope of these issues and even of the drug trade itself before suggesting what will be the supposed solution?

    Nah, better forget I said anything. Lalalalala….



  4. Bagre Says:

    I’m not sure I would characterize the UN’s 26% drop in cocaine production in Colombia in 2008 compared to 2007 (from 600 MT to 430) as barely changing. It’s more like a significant drop.

  5. Jaime Bustos Says:

    This picture can be nagging to your mind. Discression advied.

    Death children in the AWA massacre

  6. Camilo Wilson Says:

    The photos are among the most gruesome I’ve seen over 65 years. I think Uribe and Obama should should post them on the walls of their homes, as a reminder.

  7. Marcos Says:

    I wonder if you can complain about the sensationalism of the photos showing the corpse of “Raúl Reyes” after posting something like that.



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