• Connect with us on Linkedin

New Fighting for Colombia's Lucrative Eastern Plains

Martin Farfan Diaz, alias "Pijarbey" Martin Farfan Diaz, alias "Pijarbey"

At least 40 men are believed killed in the latest bout of fighting for control of drug crops on Colombia's Eastern Plains and the lucrative cocaine routes that give access to Venezuela, local intelligence sources told InSight Crime.

Linkedin
Google +

The fighting is concentrated in Mapiripan, the province of Meta, where a series of assassinations have again increased tension in this remote and lawless coca-growing area.  

The fighting comes as at least least four different groups try to fill a vacuum left by Pedro Oliveiro Guerreo, alias "Cuchillo," killed by police in December 2010, and Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco," captured in September 2012.

The Eastern Plains, which stretch along the Brazilian and Venezuelan borders, are thought to generate as much as $300 million per year in cocaine sales.

Cuchillo set up a his paramilitary group, the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), in 2006, which until his death in December 2010 controlled much of the cocaine trade in the provinces of Meta, Guaviare, Vichada and Casanare. He also was the principal supplier of cocaine to Loco Barrera, one of Colombia's most powerful drug traffickers.

InSight Crime Analysis

Of the former ERPAC factions remaining in the region, the dominant group is led by Martin Farfan Diaz, alias "Pijarbey," once the ERPAC's top military commander who was jailed briefly before returning to his former post. Pitted against him is Rafael Escobar Patiño, alias "Monstrico," formerly an ERPAC middle ranking commander.

Pijarbey used to run the ERPAC's fiefdom in Vichada. InSight Crime carried out investigations in Vichada prior to Pijarbey's arrest in December 2009. Pijarbey had cocaine laboratories in the northern half of Vichada, and he would transport cocaine shipments northwards into Venezuela using a mixture of boats, moving along the many rivers and tributaries, and all-terrain vehicles.

Pijarbey spent just two years in prison. Once released, he immediately returned to his old haunting ground, re-assumed command of his fighters, and got back into the cocaine business. Intelligence sources told InSight Crime that he had sent fighters from Vichada into Meta, in an attempt to reunite the former ERPAC empire under his control.

The warring groups' rivals are rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the country's most powerful criminal syndicate, the Urabeños. But there have been indications that Pijarbey has struck a deal with the Urabeños already.

The Urabeños are now the most powerful criminal franchise in the country, with presence in at least 16 of the country's 32 provinces. If this is true, it is likely that Pijarbey will emerge the victor. The Urabeños support their allies with money, weapons and sometimes with heavily-armed shock troops.

Aside from the FARC, no one has been able to resist the Urabeños advance. And whoever amongst the ERPAC wins will still probably have to come to an arrangement with the FARC, as the rebels control access to a large part of the coca crops in the region.

The FARC also have interests in Mapiripan.  Here the rebel commander Elmer Mata Caviedes, alias "Albeiro Cordoba," has been rebuilding the FARC's drug trafficking operation in the Eastern Plains, commanding at least 500 fighters.

For their part, the FARC are happy to sell coca base to the highest bidder, which used to be the ERPAC. The ERPAC then processed the coca base into cocaine and moved it into Venezuela, now the principal transit nation for Colombian cocaine moving to the US or Europe.

While the main prize they are fighting for is control of up to 100 tons of cocaine produced on the Eastern Plains -- which, in the US are worth up to $2 billion -- there are two other important prizes to consider. The first is land. This region has some of the most productive land in the country. Control of this land has been at the root of Colombia's 49-year civil conflict, and much of it has been bought by powerful drug traffickers and mafia figures. So whichever group takes control of this area, will also be able to seize land owned by drug traffickers, and demand "protection" payments to allow them to keep it.

The second prize is control of regional drug distribution, particularly in the provincial capital of Villavicencio, the gateway linking the Eastern Plains to Bogota, country's biggest local drug market. There have been a rash of selective killings in Villavicencio over the last few months, including a massacre on December 8, when gunmen opened fire on five men drinking in a bar. Police believe the gunmen were sent by Pijarbey.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link 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.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Canada Drug Trafficking Groups Expanding Mexico Ties

Canada Drug Trafficking Groups Expanding Mexico Ties

After a spate of killings targeting Canadian drug traffickers in Mexico, there have been several indications that some of Canada's criminal groups have now stabilized their drug supply chain and expanded operations, even increasing cocaine...

Read more

Colombian Carpenter Nearly Extradited to U.S. By Mistake

Colombian Carpenter Nearly Extradited to U.S. By Mistake

A carpenter in Colombia has been released from prison after being wrongly accused of running a money laundering operation, a case that highlights issues in the way the United States and Colombia handle extradition cases...

Read more

'Italian Mafia Leader' Nabbed in Argentina

'Italian Mafia Leader' Nabbed in Argentina

Authorities in Argentina have confirmed the recent arrest of an alleged high-level member of the 'Ndrangheta mafia wanted in Italy for attempted murder, but it is unclear whether he was there for business or was...

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile