The leader of the Machos, who has been captured in Colombia

Colombian police have captured the alleged head of the once-mighty Machos drug gang, in a blow to his allies in the Urabeños, and their campaign to push rivals the Rastrojos out of southwest Colombia

Hector Mario Urdinola, alias "Chicho," was hiding on a farm in the department of Meta when he was arrested by Colombia's judicial police (DIJIN), who had been tracking him for a year and a half, reported El Tiempo.

Chicho assumed control of the remnants of the Machos, once the armed wing of the Norte del Valle cartel, after then-leader Hilber Nover Urdinola Perea, alias "Don H," turned himself in to police in 2011.

Later that year, Chico negotiated the sale of trafficking routes in Colombia's southwest to neo-paramilitary organization the Urabeños, according to a report in Cali newspaper El Pais.

The sale allowed the Urabeños to gain a foothold in the Valle del Cauca region -- a major drug trafficking hub -- sparking a violent turf war with their main rivals, drug gang the Rastrojos.

Although the Rastrojos have been severely by weakened by the loss of key leadership figures over the last year, the violence has continued, and, according to La Semana, Chicho and his associates are believed to have been responsible for much of it, including the high profile killing of Lorena Henao Montoya -- “the widow of the mafia.”

InSight Analysis

While the sale of the Valle del Cauca plaza to the Urabeños essentially marked the end of the Machos as an independent criminal organization, it appears Chicho used the backing of the Urabeños to increase his personal power and influence in the region, and remained a major player in the Valle del Cauca underworld.

According to Semana, Chicho had been working closely with traffickers known as "Martin Bala" and "El Negro Orlando," to exterminate the remnants of the Rastrojos and seize control of the trafficking routes and properties left by the Rastrojos' decimated leadership. In 2012, leader Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” surrendered to the authorities, and Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” was arrested in Venezuela.

All three have long-established ties to organized crime in the region, and their dispute with the Rastrojos dates back to the break-up of the Norte del Valle cartel.

The newcomers in this regional territorial dispute -- the Urabeños -- may suffer from his arrest as they have lost a key local contact. However, with the Rastrojos in disarray and the Urabeños in the ascendancy, it may also free the way for them to assert their own control, without having to share power and profits with local partners.

Investigations

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

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.

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...

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...