An aerial view of Tumaco, Colombia

Rumors suggest that Mexican drug cartels have established a presence in southwest Colombia, according to Colombia’s president, highlighting the strategic importance of the region in the drug trade.

During a February 14 security conference in Tumaco, in Colombia’s Nariño department, President Juan Manuel Santos said that there have been “many rumors” that Mexican cartels are present in this department, and in particular, the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, El Pais reported.

The president said that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Police will investigate the possibility that Mexican cartels are present in this southwestern province, which borders Ecuador to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west, and is one of Colombia’s biggest coca producing regions.

Santos also said that he would increase the Tumaco police force by 200, indicating concern over security in the port city, which has the highest rate of coca production in Colombia and is one of the most violent areas of the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

The president’s statements did not make clear whether he believes that the cartel is developing a permanent armed presence in Nariño or merely has representatives there. Regardless, the department’s geographic location and coca plantations make it a strategic convergence point for transnational drug traffickers.

Numerous criminal organizations already operate within the department, including the Rastrojos, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Tumaco has served as a particularly strategic site for these organizations, which use the port and the surrounding area as an exit point for drug shipments.

Colombian authorities have previously arrested various operatives accused of acting as intermediaries between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombian criminal organizations, including Jorge Milton Cifuentes in November 2012, member of an infamous Colombian drug trafficking family, and, in January 2013, a Cali man thought to coordinate activities with Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo." In early 2012, Colombia arrested 34 members of a little-known group, the Galeano Clan, also thought to have Sinaloa Cartel ties.

In early 2011, Colombia’s chief of police reported that the Sinaloa Cartel had begun working with the FARC, following reports that the cartel had operatives in Peru and Ecuador. Ecuador has also served as a connection point between Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking organizations. 

The large number of alleged Sinaloa Cartel operatives arrested in southern Colombia highlights the region's importance to drug traffickers, and makes a Sinaloa Cartel presence in Nariño well within the realms of possibility. The department’s border with Ecuador, long coastline, coca production, and history of criminal activity, coupled with the cartel's expanding influence, serve to increase this likelihood.

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.