Grenade Attack in Colombia Raises Specter of New Emerald War

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

The man believed to have replaced “Emerald Czar” Victor Carranza as the most powerful figure in Colombia’s emerald trade has named the rivals he blames for a recent attempt on his life, moving Colombia closer to a new “Green War.”

On November 9, four people died and nine were injured in a grenade attack in the emerald mining region of Boyaca that authorities believe was targeting Pedro Rincon, alias “Pedro Orejas.”

Speaking in radio interviews, Rincon blamed enemies in the emerald trade for the attack, suggesting the Murcia and Cañon clans were the most likely culprits.

Rincon added he did not believe the family of Victor Carranza, who until his death in April had dominated the emerald trade, was behind the violence. He added that another emerald mining family, the Molinas, was also breaking the pact between the principal emerald clans and looking to expand their influence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia’s lightly regulated emerald trade has long been a sector that straddles the line between the legal and illegal worlds. Regulated sales represent just a fraction of the profits on offer, with illegal sales and opportunities for laundering drug profits the real attraction for many.

For decades, the unchecked trade has attracted murky characters, from Carranza himself, who was suspected of operating his own private army and having ties to paramilitary groups, to drug traffickers such as Pablo Escobar and his associate Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, alias “El Mexicano.”

The explosive mix of powerful criminals and vast profits led to frequent bloodletting, which erupted in the 1980s in a series of “Green Wars,” which claimed over three thousands lives.

In 1990 a peace agreement was brokered between Carranza and other major players in the emerald trade, which curbed the violence and left Carranza with a firm control over the sector and a critical role as guarantor of the peace.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Even before Carranza’s death there were signs this peace was fracturing, and in one of his final acts, Carranza wrote to main rival Rincon — who he blamed for a murder and attacks — pleading with him to respect the peace deal.

With Carranza gone, Rincon is now widely believed to be the most powerful figure in the emerald trade. However, his influence pales in comparison to that enjoyed by Carranza, and fears have mounted that rival clans will challenge his status. The latest attack vindicates these fears, and may well prove to be the opening salvos of a new “Green War.”

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+