Yet another heir to the leadership of Colombian neo-paramilitary group ERPAC has surrendered to the government, pointing to a struggle for power in the country’s Eastern Plains following the arrest of kingpin Daniel “El Loco” Barrera.
Jose Antonio Lopez, alias “Jean Claude,” handed himself in to Colombian authorities on October 17 in San Martin, in the central province of Meta, reported Semana. He is alleged to have been the leader of the Meta-based faction of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), a position he assumed after the arrest of the group’s former leader, Rubber Antonio Navarro, alias “Flaco Freddy,” last month.
Some 267 ERPAC fighters surrendered to the government in December last year, led by commander Jose Eberto Lopez Montero, alias “Caracho.” The remains of the neo-paramilitary group split into two warring factions: the Meta Bloc and the Liberators of Vichada, led by Martin Farfan, alias “Pijarbey.” The groups are fighting for control of drug trafficking routes running through the Eastern Plains into Venezuela.
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Control over drug trafficking routes in the Eastern Plains has been in a state of flux since the capture of kingpin Loco Barrera in Venezuela last month. Loco Barrera commanded a vast drug empire in the Eastern Plains and had long had ties to the ERPAC. He was believed to have supported the Meta faction following the group’s split. There were reports that El Loco’s empire had been taken over by a relatively unknown member of the ERPAC, known as Jose Nieto, alias “Candelo.”
The surrender of the Meta Bloc head, and the loss of Meta ally Loco Barrera, means the Vichada faction are well placed to exert more control in the area. What’s more, Pijarbey has reportedly made an alliance with the Urabeños drug gang, which could strengthen his hand considerably.