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Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were either in prison, or had gone over to his rivals, a shadowy paramilitary...

AUC Profile

AUC

AUC

The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC) was a coalition of right-wing death squads that used the conflict to camouflage their illicit economic activities. These included drug trafficking, displacement, kidnapping, and extortion. The AUC once operated in two-thirds of the country with approximately 30,000 soldiers.

More AUC News

  • Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

    By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were either in prison, or had gone over to his rivals, a shadowy paramilitary group that called itself People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar - PEPES). Leading the hunt against him for the PEPES was one-legged former guerrilla and cartel enforcer Diego Murillo Bejarano, alias "Don Berna." Berna had turned on Escobar after El Patrón killed his boss, Fernando Galeano. As part of the plan to destroy Escobar, he and the PEPES had teamed up with the Colombian police's famed Search Bloc.

  • Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

    Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias 'Jorge 40' (Getty Images)

    Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible 30-year jail sentence for drug trafficking. In his own mind, Tovar was a hero, not a drug trafficker -- a warrior, not a criminal.

  • Court Ruling Stirs Controversy Over Colombia's 'Para-Economy'

    A court ruling that mentioned Postobón sparked controversy.

    A recent ruling by Colombia’s Justice and Peace Court that mentioned Postobón called for employees of the iconic soft drink company to be investigated for possible past collaboration with a paramilitary group but did not explicitly implicate the company itself, court documents show.

  • Colombia Investigates Over 100 Disappearances from Bogotá Prison

    Modelo Prison, Bogota, Colombia

    Prosecutors in Colombia believe over 100 people were murdered, dismembered and disappeared in a Bogotá prison between 1999 and 2001, in a macabre example of how armed groups and drug traffickers turned Colombian prisons into hubs of organized crime.

  • Prosecution Gaffe Absolves Colombia Paramilitary of Drug Trafficking

    Former AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso

    The Colombian Supreme Court has absolved a former paramilitary leader of drug trafficking charges, reigniting doubts about the country's willingness and ability to administer justice to its most renowned war criminals.

  • Surprisingly Light Sentence for Colombia Paramilitary Chief

    One of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary warlords, "Jorge 40," could be free from prison in the United States in just five years following the conclusion of a strange judicial episode that raises yet more questions over the United States role in prosecuting Colombian paramilitaries.

  • Colombia Paramilitary Leader 'El Aleman' Released From Prison

    Freddy Rendon, alias "El Aleman"

    A former Colombian paramilitary leader with extensive links to organized crime has been released from prison, which may have significant consequences for Colombia's underworld and the country's largest drug trafficking group, the Urabeños.

  • Colombia's 'Invisible' Drug Traffickers May Include 'Narco-Ghost'

    The BCB was one of Colombia's most powerful paramilitary blocs

    A profile of a Colombian drug trafficker who, after a long criminal career, disappeared off the radar highlights how key figures in the underworld continue to successfully operate undetected.

  • 140 Political Candidates in Colombia With Criminal Links: Report

    The Colombian Senate

    A forthcoming report by a prominent Colombian NGO says at least 140 candidates running for political office in Colombia have criminal ties -- including links to paramilitary and organized crime groups -- a troubling indication of the enduring bonds between politicians and criminal organizations in the country.

  • After US Sentencing, Colombia's Top Paramilitary Braces for Next Legal Battle

    AUC Commander Salvatore Mancuso

    The recent US sentencing of Salvatore Mancuso, Colombia's former paramilitary commander-in-chief, ends years of backroom negotiations but it did not answer the next question in his landmark case: whether Mancuso should get credit for meeting his obligations in Colombia's paramilitary demobilization process.

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Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...