Urabeños Capture May Shake Up Turf War in Southwest Colombia

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Colombian police have captured alias “Martin Bala,” a leader of drug trafficking orgaization the Urabeños, whose war with rival organization the Rastrojos in Colombia’s third biggest city has led to thousands of deaths. 

Greylin Fernando Varon Cadena is accused of leading the Urabeños in Colombia’s southwestern Valle del Cauca department, as Semana magazine reports. He is also believed to have been the main contact and coordinator for Orlando Gutierrez Rendon, alias “Negro Orlando,” a key leader of the Urabeños in the region who was captured three weeks ago in Cali.

Varon lived in Spain for a number of years, where two of his sisters ran a drug trafficking ring that brought in cocaine from Colombia. He returned to Valle de Cauca in 2008 in order help wage a war against the Rastrojos. More than 2,000 people are estimated to have died in the department as a result of the fighting.

InSight Crime Analysis

Varon’s bloody dispute with the Rastrojos dates back to the mid 2000s, when he worked for a splinter faction of the Norte del Valle cartel. The cartel’s military wing, led by brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Calle Serna, would later form the basis of the organization now known as the Rastrojos. After the Calle Serna brothers attempted to have Varon killed in 2005, Varon moved to Spain, and it is believed that he only returned to Colombia to seek revenge, allying himself with the Urabeños in the process.

With Varon and Negro Orlando both captured, the question is whether the southwestern cell of the Urabeños will remain strong enough to continue the conflict in Valle de Cauca. In a previous serious blow to the organization, police captured another key ally, Hector Mario Urdinola, alias “Chicho,” in January. While the Rastrojos has suffered some serious setbacks of their own, including the arrest of Javier Antonio Serna last year, Valle del Cauca is their home turf, and the Urabeños have had a difficult time cementing control here — as demonstrated, in part, by the ongoing violence.

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