Colombia’s Eastern Plains Up for Grabs After Drug Lord Capture

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Authorities have arrested a drug boss who went from stable boy for the Medellín Cartel to carving out a criminal empire of his own on Colombia’s Eastern Plains, moving multi-ton drug shipments into Venezuela and beyond.

Oscar Mauricio Pachón Rozo, alias “Puntilla,” was captured on February 26 in the north central department of Santander, El Tiempo reported. Pachón was a major player in the drug trade in the capital city Bogotá, the Eastern Plains region, and in the northern department of Magdalena. 

Pachón has been described as the successor of his former associate Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, who dominated drug trafficking in the Eastern Plains from 2003 until his capture in 2012. Even before Loco Barrera’s arrest, Pachón increased his stake in the drug world, according to a 2013 Semana article. He reportedly ordered the assassination of Loco Barrera’s right-hand men as well as several lieutenants in order to take their assets.

Pachón also forged alliances with major drug traffickers including Martín Farfán Díaz González, alias “Pijarbey” (or “Pijarvey”) — whose group the Liberators of Vichada (Libertadores del Vichada) trafficked drugs on the Eastern Plains — and Victor Ramon Navarro, alias “Megateo” — the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL) leader who controlled drug trafficking in Norte de Santander along the Venezuelan border until his death in 2015.

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After his allies were killed by the authorities, Pachón reportedly took control of the drug trade in the eastern departments of Norte de Santander, Meta and Vichada, El Colombiano reported.

Before learning the tricks of the trade under the guidance of Loco Barrera, Pachón allegedly worked his way into the Colombian underworld as a stable boy in the Medellín Cartel and later joined the ranks of the rival Cali Cartel. At the time, he was a successful businessman and had his own cocaine processing laboratories.

Pachón assumed the leadership of a dissident faction of the drug trafficking paramilitary organization Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (Ejército Revolucionario Popular Antiterrorista Colombiano – ERPAC), according to authorities. His group reportedly became known as “Los Puntilleros.”

Pachón is known to have links to the leader of Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organization the Urabeños, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel.” According to a Ministry of Defense press release, Pachón coordinated “drug trafficking routes with cartels in Mexico and the United States.” 

Authorities had been hunting Pachón for over three years, and it is expected that he will be extradited to the United States, El Espectador reported. The Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas stated that this was the first significant operation to be carried out by the police’s new Search Bloc, created as part of the government’s “new policy against organized crime” (listen to a recording of the Minister of Defense and Head of Police’s joint press conference here). In the past, the government used a Search Bloc to hunt down Pablo Escobar and the leaders of the Cali Cartel.

InSight Crime Analysis

The capture of Pachón may reveal the latest criminal dynamics of Colombia’s strategic Eastern Plains post-2012. Following the fall of Loco Barrera, it was uncertain who would take control of the area or even if anyone would be able to establish a regional hegemony over the drug trade here. President Juan Manuel Santos described Barrera as Colombia’s “last great capo.” And yet here we are four years later with another “great capo” captured.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

It was expected that the task for any successor to Loco Barrera would be a tough one, given the number of different criminal elements in the region, which has the presence of three Marxist rebel groups, numerous smaller drug trafficking syndicates and which involves navigating through the chaos of Venezuela with its ongoing crisis.

Although for years little was known about him, Pachón effectively took control of Loco Barrera’s old drug trafficking routes. With his capture, much of the drug trade in the Eastern Plains is up for grabs. The Plains are a strategic area that border Venezuela and are a cocaine processing hub.  They have long been disputed by drug bosses, guerrilla and paramilitary groups alike. Someone is likely to take his place as drug crops reach record levels once again.

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