Monday, January 2, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia Urabenos ‘drug gang leader’ shot by police

Officials in Colombia say the alleged leader of a powerful criminal gang has been killed in a police operation.

Prosecutors accuse Juan de Dios Usuga and his brother Dairo Antonio of jointly leading the Urabenos gang, which controls much of the drug-trafficking in the north of Colombia.

Police say Juan de Dios Usuga, 44, was shot dead as officers tried to arrest him at his ranch in Choco province.


Los Urabenos is one of the groups the Colombian government calls Bacrim, short for bandas criminales (criminal gangs).

While the era of the big cartels in Colombia is over, at least rhetorically, the drug business does continue at significant levels.

I think that on the one hand it is important to note that Colombia has made substantial progress in regards to violence and criminality,  but that on the other hand, the struggle continues.  I note this, if anything, because often the press (and sometimes representatives of the US government) speaks as if the drug war has been basically won in Colombia and that, therefore, policies used there are directly exportable to Mexico and Afghanistan.  This is problematic because such pronouncements make it sound as if the drug war is working (and is “winnable”) when, in fact, this is not the case.  It is also problematic because the situations in Mexico and Afghanistan are substantially different than that in Colombia once one gets beyond superficial comparisons that include violence and drugs.

Filed under: Colombia | Comments Off|
Thursday, December 1, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Colombia Reports:  Colombia drops slightly in global corruption index.

Compared to countries like New Zealand (9.5), Denmark (9.4) and Finland (9.4) Colombia scored low in the annual index f Transparency International (TI), but within Latin America Colombia is the 5th least corrupt country after Chile (7.2), Uruguay (7), Costa Rica and Brazil.

A list of regional cases at the link.

Filed under: Colombia,Latin America | Comments Off|
Saturday, November 5, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Cross-posted to OTB.

Yesterday evening Twitter lit up with reports out of Colombia that the leader of the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the most significant guerrilla group in Colombia’s seemingly endless struggle with insurgents, was killed by the military.

The BBC reports:  Top Farc rebel leader Alfonso Cano killed in Colombia

The leader of Colombia’s left wing Farc rebel group, Alfonso Cano, has been killed in a military raid, President Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed.

He called it the most devastating blow to the group in its decades-long insurgency and urged it to disband.

Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said Cano was killed in an operation in mountains in Colombia’s south-west.

This is a major development and will be a serious blow to the FARC.  However, the degree to whether this will cripple the FARC remains to be seen.  First, the FARC is a cellular organization that does not rely upon a central leadership.  Second, the FARC is driven by drug profits at the moment and some cells are more thoroughly involved in the drug trade than are others.  This activity will continue.  Third, historically speaking the FARC and like groups in Colombia have been able to cause trouble for the Colombian states and its citizens even as small groups.

As the sidebar to this story noted:

Alfonso Cano was only the second commander-in-chief the Farc have had in 47 years and the only one to be killed in combat. So the psychological impact of his death for the Marxist rebel movement is huge. However, it is unlikely to destroy the group, or indeed, even cause a serious interruption in its operations.

It is worth noting that this is yet another example of success by the Colombia state against the FARC.  Some highlights include:

March 2024:   A raid over the border into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes (a key FARC commander) and garnered a large amount of intel about FARC operations is obtained.

May 2024: FARC founder and leader, Pedro Marin (aka Manuel Marulanda) dies.

July 2024:  The army rescues the FARC’s most high profile hostages:  presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt (who had been kidnapped in 2024) and 3 US government contractors (along with a dozen others).

September 2024:  High level FARC commander, El Mono Jojoy is killed in combat.

And these are only the most major stories.  It has not been a good 3.5 years for the FARC (indeed, it has been its worst 3+ span in its history, which has spanned 5 decades).

More on recent on the FARC during this span of time (in reverse chronological order):

Filed under: Colombia | Comments Off|
Tuesday, November 1, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Miami HeraldColombia sees peaceful vote, former rebel new Bogotá mayor

Gustavo Petro, a former leftist rebel and socialist legislator, is the new mayor of Bogotá after corruption-weary Colombians took to the polls on Sunday.

With 84 percent of the vote counted, Petro, 51, had a comfortable lead in the hotly contested race, beating out former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and former legislator Gina Parody.

Campaigning on a platform of rooting out graft and taking basic services to the poor, including providing subsidized water, Petro won 33 percent of the vote versus Peñalosa’s 25 percent and Parody’s 17 percent.

Amongst Petro’s challenges include governing after winning only a third of the vote.   He does fit the general (although not perfect) pattern of electing center-left candidates to this office.

It is worth noting that the mayor of Bogota is the arguably the second most important politicians in Colombia after the president.

On a personal note:  I interviewed Petro when I was doing my dissertation research back in the 1990s.

Filed under: Colombia,elections | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia President scraps spy agency after scandals

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has officially dissolved the country’s intelligence agency, the DAS, after a series of scandals.

Mr Santos said most DAS staff were being transferred to other government departments.

The organisation has been mired in controversy for years.

Last month its former head, Jorge Noguera, was sentenced to jail for 25 years for collaborating with paramilitary death squads.

Noguera led the Administrative Security Department (DAS) from 2024 to 2024, under former President Alvaro Uribe.

He was found guilty of allowing right-wing paramilitaries to infiltrate the service, and helping them to murder an academic activist.

Of course, two key questions remain:

1)  Does this amount to an actual disbandment of the organization or is it just an organizational reorganization? In other words:  will some of the actual functions of the DAS go away or will this mean a real change?


2)  Will this scandal ever touch former President Uribe?

Filed under: Colombia | Comments Off|
Friday, October 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia’s illegal groups cast shadow over local polls.

Filed under: Colombia,elections | Comments Off|
Monday, September 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Farc’s drug submarine seized in Colombia

The 16m-long (52ft) vessel – equipped with a sophisticated navigation system – was captured near the Pacific port city of Buenaventura.


The vessel would have been able to travel as far as Central America.

From the photo (see it via the link), the craft looks like a semi-submersible (i.e, the craft is not designed to operate wholly under water).

This is the first time that I recall one of these craft being explicitly linked to the FARC:

"It was going to be used by the narco-terrorist 29th front of the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in alliance with organisations of drug traffickers who operate in this southern area of the country," drugs police chief Gen Luis Alberto Perez told Efe news agency.

Filed under: Colombia,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Friday, September 23, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

An interesting piece from the EconomistBridging the gaps.

Filed under: Colombia | Comments Off|
Tuesday, September 6, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

From a few days ago via the BBC:  Thirty-six seized in Colombia anti-drug operation

Thirty-six suspects have been arrested in two operations against drug-trafficking in Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has said.


The operations were carried out jointly with the US.

The authorities seized large amounts of drugs, 21 light aircraft and submarines used to transport the drugs to Central America, to be taken to the US.

The gang is said to have been capable of exporting 10 tonnes of cocaine per month to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

A couple of quick observations/questions:

1)  I wonder what the exact role of the US was in the operation?  Theoretically, there are limitations on exactly what the US can do in Colombia.

2)  As always, it is amazing how these raids lead to revealing substantial capabilities of any given drug gang/cell of a given operation.

3)  The direct connection to Mexican cartels underscores the current structure of the cocaine business in the current era.

Cross-posted at OTB.

Filed under: Colombia,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia’s new defence minister Pinzon vows action:

Colombia’s new defence minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, has been sworn in, with orders to give the "final blow" to the Farc rebel group.

Mr Pinzon is an economist, a former deputy defence minister, and a close ally of President Juan Manuel Santos.

He was brought in to replace Rodrigo Rivera, amid a growing perception that security gains are being reversed.

Filed under: Colombia | Comments Off|
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