Old Generation Narcos Fuel Colombia’s New Mafia Wars

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Violence in Colombia’s Pacific region is being driven not only by new generation BACRIM groups but also by drug traffickers from the long gone Cali Cartel, say security forces, as Colombia’s past continues to cast a shadow over the modern drug trade.

The most recent outbreak of mafia wars in Valle del Cauca — Colombia’s most violent department — is linked to a former member of the Cali Cartel who returned to Colombia last year, security forces sources told El Tiempo.

Only identified as “Señor de la R,” the trafficker was deported from the United States after serving an 18-year prison sentence. On his return, he set up his own criminal organization and launched a war to reclaim control over drug trafficking routes and other criminal operations.

This brought him into conflict with the remnants of the Rastrojos, once the most powerful of Colombia’s BACRIM (from “bandas criminales” or criminal bands) but now reduced to local factions after the surrender and arrest of their national leadership. According to El Tiempo, the Valle faction of the Rastrojos is led by a trafficker going by the name “Giovanny,” who has built alliances with other criminal groups and drug traffickers in the region to try and rebuild.

To further complicate things, the Rastrojos’ bitter enemies, the Machos, struck a deal with the Urabeños, paying for mercenary reinforcements. In doing so they strengthened their power while allowing the Urabeños a foothold in the region.

InSight Crime Analysis

“Señor de la R” — who according to El Tiempo is a family member and close ally of Helmer “Pacho” Herrera who led the Cali Cartel — is just the latest old generation drug trafficker to return to Valle to stake his claim to the region’s underworld, following in the footsteps of Victor Patiño Fomeque, alias “El Quimico.” Patiño, who worked with the Cali Cartel, then their successors, the Norte Del Valle Cartel (NDVC), also returned after a stint in a US prison. He is believed to have been the driving force behind a coalition of sons and relatives of former NDVC traffickers who united with the Urabeños to take on their old enemies in the Rastrojos.

However, it is not just in Valle where traffickers from Colombia’s cocaine heyday of the 80s continue to make their mark. On the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) most wanted list appear two Colombians with no legal history within the country. Although they have left little trace of their past, they are also believed to be linked to the old generation of cartels, with one an alleged Medellin Cartel money launderer.

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