Drug Lord’s Death May Rock Eastern Colombia

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Police have killed a major drug trafficker operating in Colombia’s eastern region, possibly creating a power vacuum along important drug transit corridors leading to neighboring Venezuela and Brazil.

On September 27, Colombian police director Rodolfo Palomino revealed that Martin Farfan Diaz Gonzalez, alias “Pijarbey,” was killed during an early morning raid in the eastern department of Vichada, reported El Espectador.

One of the most powerful criminals in Colombia’s Eastern Plains region, Pijarbey controlled drug trafficking routes through the departments of Vichada, Meta, and Guaviare, near the southeastern border with Venezuela and Brazil. He was wanted on charges of homicide, conspiracy, terrorism, and illegal weapons possession.

Pijarbey’s criminal group, the Libertadores del Vichada, is a splinter faction of another criminal organization, the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC). The Libertadores del Vichada are currently believed to have an alliance with Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking group, the Urabeños.

According to El Tiempo, the manhunt for Pijarbey began in January 2012, with a $385,000 reward for information leading to his capture. Authorities said Pijarbey had been based in his Vichada hideout for nearly a year. The police raid that killed him was the result of months of investigation and intelligence work, authorities added. 

InSight Crime Analysis

In many ways, Pijarbey was symbolic of the evolution of Colombia’s criminal underworld following the demobilization of right-wing paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Beginning his criminal career in 1996, Pijarbey allied with a faction of the AUC known as the Centauros Bloc. After the AUC disbanded, he helped establish another criminal group, the ERPAC. This was one of Colombia’s many BACRIM (for the Spanish “criminal bands”) that sprouted in the wake of the AUC’s demobilization. 

SEE ALSO: Profile of Pijarbey

Captured in December 2009, Pijarbey was freed three years later after serving a prison sentence. He returned to Vichada, where he took over the ERPAC’s operations, following the death of their leader. As the head of the Libertadores del Vichada, Pijarbey reportedly managed to establish control over several criminal enterprises in Colombia’s Eastern Plains region. 

His death may therefore precipitate a power struggle over drug routes in southeastern Colombia. An isolated, rugged region along the border with Venezuela, the Eastern Plains is an area where both criminal and guerrilla interests have long competed. This is a key hub for the transnational drug trade, and is also home to large deposits of a much-desired mineral, coltan. With Pijarbey gone, rival group the Meta Block — another faction of the ERPAC — could now be poised to become the dominant criminal player in the region. 

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