Cali Cartel kingpin Victor Patino Fomeque resumes drug trafficking in Colombia
By Dialogo December 22, 2013
An older generation of drug traffickers from the defunct Cali Cartel is re-emerging to wage violent struggles against a younger generation of drug traffickers in Colombia’s Pacific region.
The violence has resulted in as many as 2,000 killings in the region in 2013, authorities estimate. Colombian security forces report that the spike in gangland violence in the Valle del Cauca department has been largely fueled by a former Cali Cartel kingpin who returned to Colombia after serving almost two decades in U.S. prison.
The former Cali Cartel drug lord, identified only as "Señor de la R," was deported from the U.S. to Colombia in 2012 after serving an 18-year prison sentence, according to interviews with Colombian security officials reported in El Tiempo. After his return he set up his own criminal group and launched a battle with the new generation of organized crime groups to reclaim control over drug trafficking routes and other criminal operations in the Valle del Cauca department.
Security forces defeated the Cali Cartel
Senor de la R is a family member of former Cali Cartel leader Helmer "Pacho" Herrera, who surrendered to Colombian security forces in 1996 and was assassinated in prison two years later, according to El Tiempo. Herrera was the last of seven major Cali Cartel kingpins who Colombian security forces captured in the mid-1990s.
Those arrests and others decimated the ranks of the Cali Cartel, which had once been the world’s biggest supplier of cocaine. With the demise of the Cali Cartel, much of the Valle del Cauca drug trade was taken over by the Norte del Valle Cartel (NDVC), although it too was soon broken up by arrests, extraditions and internal dissension.
The rise of Los Rastrojos
With the other organized crime groups decimated, Los Rastrojos emerged in the early 2000s as the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Valle del Cauca. Los Rastrojos began in 2002 as the armed wing for drug trafficker Wilber Varela, who was known as “Jabon.” Los Rastrojos fought on behalf of Jabon against the Norte del Valle Cartel. Jabon was murdered in 2008; by then, Los Rastrojos was operating as an independent drug trafficking group.
Beginning in 2006, Los Rastrojos expanded rapidly. But in 2012, three of its top leaders were captured or surrendered, leaving Los Rastrojos in disarray.
The return of ‘The Chemist’
Senor de la R’s organization is now battling the remnants of Los Rastrojos for control in Valle del Cauca, according to published reports. At the same time, Los Rastrojos is fighting with Los Urabenos, a paramilitary style drug trafficking group based in north-central Colombia but now expanding into Los Rastrojos strongholds.
Senor de la R is not the only former Cali Cartel higher-up and U.S. ex-convict who has resurfaced in the Valle del Cauca drug trade. Victor Patiño Fomeque, also known as “The Chemist.” He also returned to Colombia in 2010 after serving a prison term in the U.S. and reportedly has organized a potent alliance of criminal organizations.
The Chemist was a high-ranking leader of the Cali Cartel when he surrendered to Colombian security forces in 1995. Authorities extradited him to the United States to face federal charges related to drug trafficking. The Chemist served six years in prison after cooperating with U.S. authorities. While The Chemist provided information to U.S. authorities, his former drug trafficking associates retaliated by killing members of his family, as many as 35 in all, according to published reports.
An organized crime coalition
Authorities suspect The Chemist is the leader of a coalition of sons and other relatives of former Norte del Valle Cartel operatives who have united with Los Urabeños to fight Los Rastrojos for control of drug trafficking routes and other criminal enterprises.
Security forces must remain vigilant
In an ongoing effort to stamp out the violence, the Colombian government has deployed hundreds of additional security forces and increased patrols in the Valle del Cauca.
Colombian security forces must remain vigilant, said Raul Benitez Manaut, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Many Colombian drug traffickers who were extradited to the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s are now completing their prison sentences and are returning to their home country, Benitez Manaut said.
“Some narcotraffickers are returning without any money or contacts to continue in the drug trafficking business, and many of them do not want problems with security forces,” the security analyst said. “However, others are returning with little money and few contacts and are returning to drug trafficking. Those who are already active, such as ‘R,’ are seeking to revive their old business through violence, murder, and betrayal. The younger generations of drug traffickers will not cede control of their organizations easily.”
Colombian security forces must continue to keep a close eye on older drug traffickers who return to the country after serving long prison sentences, Benitez Manaut said.
“These people can become a serious problem for society and the security forces,” Benitez Manaut said. “The Colombian government has the challenge of watching each of the kingpins who are returning to the country and using intelligence to detect which ones are returning to drug trafficking.”
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.
Not even the government can handle than criminal influence, please end that war now.. Very good for the government to become stronger and win this war Very interesting. The problem is precisely with the end to sentencing...we need to keep an eye on Carlos Lehder...