Jorge Milton Cifuentes

Over the years, the Cifuentes Villa family has collaborated with one drug trafficking cartel after another, from the AUC to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, but its power in the Colombian underworld may finally be coming to an end.

Jorge Milton Cifuentes was arrested November 8 in the Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, in a joint operation between Colombia's judicial police (DIJIN), Venezuelan police, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He has been indicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the United States for his ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, and blacklisted by the US Treasury Department under the Kingpin Act

Jorge Milton was one of the last active members of the Cifuentes drug trafficking organization. The family has been involved in the international drug trade for over two decades, working with several generations of Colombian criminals, including the Medellin Cartel, its successor group the Oficina de Envigado, the Norte del Valle Cartel, and paramilitary army the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). 

The family came under extra scrutiny after Jorge Milton's sister, Dolly Cifuentes, was arrested in 2011 and then extradited to the United States this year. She was the mistress of former President Alvaro Uribe's brother, which has raised questions about the extent of the ties between the two families.

Milton's brother Hildebrando, and Dolly Cifuentes' daughter Ana Maria (Alvaro Uribe's niece) remain at large. Both have been named by the US Treasury Department as involved in the Cifuentes Villa drug trafficking operation. Many other members of the family have either been arrested or killed. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Over the years the Cifuentes family has proved skilled at adapting to the many shifts in power in the Colombia drug business. They are nothing if not resilient, able to carve out a role for themselves in each new criminal landscape. They are the social climbers of the Colombian underworld, but have seen their fortunes fall dramatically in more recent years.

The life that Jorge Milton was reportedly leading in Venezuela prior to his arrest illustrates the family's ability to adjust. He posed as a farmer, and, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, was able to blend in with a local indigenous community, marrying the 19-year-old daughter of one family, and giving them livestock ("five cows and five pigs," the newspaper reports) as part of the traditional ceremony. However, Colombian police were able to trace his business calls to Mexico.

The history of the Cifuentes clan is emblematic of the many changes in Colombia's drug trade since the 1990s. One of Jorge Milton's brothers was a pilot for Pablo Escobar. Another brother played a key role in the Norte del Valle Cartel wars, and was eventually assassinated by the man who would one day become the leader of the Rastrojos.

Caught in the middle of the conflict, the family sought -- and received -- the protection of the AUC. Jorge Milton helped coordinate a shipment of 3,000 rifles from Nicaragua to Colombia on behalf of the paramilitaries. But a paramilitary leader had another Cifuentes brother killed in 2007 for refusing to give up a lucrative air strip used for drug flights.

Afterwards, the surviving family members began working with the Sinaloa Cartel, and are accused of moving some 30 tons of cocaine into the United States between 2009 and 2011. The family are also accused of using their many businesses -- a Colombian airline, a real estate company in Mexico, a consulting company in Ecuador -- to launder money on the cartel's behalf.

Cifuentes' arrest is representative of the end of an era in which a select few families controlled Colombia's drug trafficking industry. Their world was violent and hermetic (notably, Ana Maria Cifuentes is reportedly married to a member of the Fabio Ochoa family, which co-founded the Medellin Cartel). Now, Colombia's cocaine trade is controlled by criminal enterprises that act like violent corporations, rather than a tightly knit circle of families and their allies. Cifuentes' capture, along with that of drug kingpin Daniel "El Loco" Barrera earlier this year, signals the passing of the "old school" generation of Colombian traffickers, and raises the question of who, or what, will replace them.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.