Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias “Pijarbey” was a powerful criminal operative in Colombia’s Eastern Plains region. He was the leader of the Libertadores del Vichada, a splinter group of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) that is dedicated to drug cultivation, processing, and trafficking, as well as hired assassinations. Pijarbey was one of Colombia’s most wanted drug traffickers before his death in September 2015.
Pijarbey (also written as “Pijarvey”) was from the municipality of Puerto Lleras in the Eastern Plains province of Meta. He joined the military as a young man and was assigned to a battalion in Villavicencio, the region’s largest city, where he was reportedly one of the unit’s most distinguished soldiers.
After leaving the military, Pijarbey joined the Centauros Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary force dedicated to fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. When the bloc split into two factions in 2004 following the murder of its leader, Pijarbey joined the Heroes de los Llanos faction and demobilized with the group two years later as part of the paramilitary peace process.
Group: Libertadores del Vichada
Criminal Activities: Drug cultivation, processing, and trafficking, and targeted assassinations
Area of Operation: Colombia’s Eastern Plains region
Like many former paramilitaries, Pijarbey quickly returned to illegal activity. He helped found the ERPAC with Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo” — who had secretly stockpiled weapons during the demobilization process — and became the organization’s military commander. In addition to operating cocaine laboratories and overseeing cocaine trafficking from the Eastern Plains province of Vichada into Venezuela, Pijarbey was Cuchillo’s main contact with corrupt security officials, who gave him information about upcoming police operations.
In December 2009, Pijarbey was arrested in an operation that marked the beginning of a series of captures and killings aimed at dismantling the ERPAC. In spite of the considerable effort authorities had made to capture the ERPAC’s military commander — in an operation involving four police helicopters and some 300 members of an elite military force — he was only charged with aggravated conspiracy and sentenced to four years in prison. He spent only two years behind bars and was released in January 2012, purportedly for good behavior.
With Cuchillo dead, Pijarbey quickly returned to his old stomping grounds and became the leader of a group of his former fighters, who called themselves the Libertadores del Vichada. By February, the group was engaged in a battle against the Meta Bloc, another ERPAC splinter group, for control of ERPAC’s drug empire — which included coca crops, cocaine laboratories, and trafficking routes. Pijarbey allied himself with the powerful criminal syndicate the Urabeños, a move that gave him the upper hand in the battle, and when Meta Bloc leader Rubber Antonio Navarro Caicedo, alias “Flaco Fredy,” was captured in September 2012, Pijarbey was well positioned to take over criminal activities in the region.
In addition to overseeing drug production and trafficking in the Eastern Plains, Pijarbey’s group expanded into the Amazon region near Colombia’s southern border. Pijarbey allegedly sent emissaries to the province of Amazonas in 2013 to establish a drug trafficking route, and in less than a year the group had established a network capable of producing 1.5 tons of cocaine a month, and forged ties with Brazilian drug traffickers. Nine men from the Amazonas network were captured in May 2014, however, and it remains unclear whether or not the group’s operations in the region continue.
In addition to building alliances with criminals such as the Urabeños and Brazilian traffickers, Pijarbey also demonstrated an ability to corrupt local officials to facilitate his criminal activities, including sourcing weapons from military stockpiles.
Pijarbey’s group controls all aspects of the drug trade in parts of the Eastern Plains region, overseeing coca cultivation, cocaine processing laboratories, and trafficking routes. The Libertadores del Vichada also includes a network of assassins.
Pijarbey was from Meta and was believed to operate throughout the Eastern Plains region in the provinces of Meta, Vichada, and Guaviare. He also appeared to have expanded operations into the Amazon region near Colombia’s southern border with Peru and Brazil, and into the province of Casanare.
Allies and Enemies
Pijarbey forged an alliance with the Urabeños, who supported the group in the battle against their rivals, the Meta Bloc. Colombian authorities are also investigating possible ties to the Oficina de Envigado, after a key Oficina operative, alias “Cesarin,” hid out in Pijarbey’s territory.
Pijarbey’s main enemies are the Meta Bloc, particularly the group’s leader Edward Alonso Suarez, alias “Calamisco,” who used to belong to the Libertadores del Vichada and left the group after a disagreement with Pijarbey led the commander to order his assassination.
In January 2014, authorities captured Pijarbey’s right-hand man, Humberto Barrios Orjuela, alias “Barrios,” and his financial chief Carlos Hernando Barrera Alfonso, alias “El Ingeniero.” These two arrests, along with that of Pijarbey’s brother in June 2014, led to speculation that police were closing in on the criminal leader. In September 2015, he was killed during a police raid on his hideout in Colombia’s eastern department of Vichada.