Roberto Vargas Gutierrez, alias "Gavilan," has transformed himself from Maoist guerrilla to paramilitary fighter to top leader of the Urabeños. He has turned himself in to authorities twice, only to return to criminal life, each time a little higher up in the underworld.
Gavilan began his criminal career with the leftist rebel group the Popular Liberation Army (EPL). He demobilized in 1991, but took up arms again in the mid-1990s joining up with newly formed paramilitaries in the Uraba region. His name first came to the attention of police in 1995 when he was identified as leading a group of 100 fighters under the command of paramilitary warlord Salvatore Mancuso in San Pedro de Uraba.
Gavilan went on to join the Mineros Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a force of some 2,800 fighters led by Ramiro "Cuco" Vanoy that operated principally in the Bajo Cauca area bordering Cordoba province in the north.
In January 2005, Gavilan demobilized during the Santa Fe de Ralito negotiations in Cordoba. However, some six months later the Usuga brothers, Juan de Dios, alias "Giovanni," and Dario, alias "Otoniel," former EPL and AUC colleagues, invited him to join them in the Urabeños.
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, drug dealing, murder
Status: At large
Area of Operation: Cordoba, Colombia
Since 2005, Gavilan has risen to become one of the top commanders of the Urabeños, controlling their operations in the key province of Cordoba. He is thought to have been instrumental in recruiting leading members of the rival Paisas gang to join the Urabeños, including Rafael Alvarez Piñeda, alias "Chepe," and German Bustos Alarcon, alias "El Puma." Both were also former members of the AUC's Mineros Bloc.
The US Treasury Department added Gavilan to their list of Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers in March 2010. The Colombian government is currently offering a reward of 1 billion Colombian pesos (over $500,000) for information leading to his arrest.
Gavilan is primarily responsible for managing the Urabeños drug trafficking operations in the province of Cordoba. He is also known to pay up to $385 for the sexual services of girls who are between the ages of 12 and 17.
Gavilan is head of Urabeños operations in the northern province of Cordoba, which lies along the Caribbean Sea. Following the death of two of his accomplices in 2011, Gavilan has primarily stayed in the jungle of Uraba.
Allies and Enemies
Gavlian is one of the most sought after men in Colombia, and has narrowly escaped capture on several occasions. Beginning in 2015, Colombian authorities began stepping up operations against the Urabeños in their stronghold of Uraba. Under pressure from authorities, he has apparently reduced his entourage from 12 to five people.
"Treasury Designates Key Associates of Colombian Drug Lord Daniel Rendon Herrera as Narcotics Traffickers," US Treasury Department, March 18, 2012
"Mancuso Sigue Guardandose Secretos," Verdad Abierta, June 26, 2012