US Blacklisting Shows Influence of Colombia’s Oficina de Envigado

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Eight members of the Oficina de Envigado — the heirs to Colombia’s famed Medellin Cartel — have been placed on the US Treasury’s drug trafficking blacklist, showing that the group remains a powerful force in the international drug trade.

On September 16, the US Treasury Department placed eight leaders of the Medellin-based Oficina de Envigado on its “kingpin” list due to their significant role in transnational drug trafficking. As a result of this designation, any assets the individuals may have in the United States will be frozen, and US citizens are prohibited from conducting business transactions with them.

Included on the list is Julian Andrey Gonzalez Vasquez, alias “Barny,” who is wanted by Colombian authorities for the 2012 murder of two police officers. Three of the individuals named on the kingpin list are currently behind bars in Colombia, “but continue to coordinate criminal operations from inside prison,” the Treasury Department stated in a press release

However, other members on the list are not currently under investigation by Colombian authorities, according to El Colombiano. This is the third time in less than three months that members of the Oficina who lack arrest warrants in Colombia have been placed on the US blacklist, the newspaper reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

The pressure that the United States is applying on the Oficina may indicate that the group is regaining its prior status as a top player in the world of transnational drug trafficking. In June, the US Treasury placed the Oficina on its kingpin list for transnational drug trafficking, as well as for providing services such as money laundering and extortion to other criminals groups.

At the height of its influence in 2003, the criminal group trafficked large amounts of cocaine from its base in Medellin and maintained control of the city’s underworld via the well-placed contacts of its leader, Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna.”

SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado Profile

Since then, the organization has fragmented. Following Don Berna’s extradition to the US in 2008, two other Oficina leaders vied to take his place. Amid the internal fighting, Medellin’s murder rate doubled between 2008 and 2009, and the rural-based Urabeños criminal group capitalized on the power vacuum by taking over large parts of the city once controlled by the Oficina. The capture of Oficina leaders such as Edison Rodolfo Rojas, alias “Pichi,” contributed further to the organization’s decline.

Nonetheless, a truce signed with the Urabeños in 2013 has given the Oficina access to international drug trafficking routes controlled by their former rivals, which may be allowing them to rebuild some of their old power structures. 

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