Following the fall of the Medellín drug cartel and the death of its leader Pablo Escobar Gaviria in 1993, Mexican cartels began to control cocaine smuggling and distribution in Colombia. In recent years, Mexican narcotraffickers have started to invest in the production of Colombian cocaine.
To counteract the arrival of Mexican cartels, the Colombian government engages in constant exchange of military intelligence with the U.S. and Mexican governments.
On April 1, 2021, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced that it will collaborate with Mexico and Colombia to ensure that the fight against drug production and trafficking complies with the law and with respect for human rights, Spanish news agency EFE reported.
Mexican cartels “provide money and weapons, and leave the war to other groups that they themselves finance,” the Colombian magazine Semana reported on January 25. “The Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels have moved their rivalry to at least five departments,” the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
The intelligence exchange between Mexico and Colombia “to detect drug shipments through five maritime routes” helped confiscate a semi-submersible with more than 1 ton of cocaine off the coast of Oaxaca on January 7, 2021, the Mexican newspaper El Occidental reported.
Clashes between criminals have “generated forced displacements, homicides, massacres, confinements, [and] assassinations of social leaders and ex-combatants,” according to the Ombudsman’s Office, an autonomous institution under the Colombian Office of the Attorney General. In the first two months of 2021, violent events displaced more than 11,000 people from their communities, the Ombudsman’s Office added.
According to the report X-Ray of the Ominous Presence of the Mexican Cartels, published by the Colombian nongovernmental organization Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares) in June 2020, “the presence of Mexican cartels in the country coincides with places where coca crops are more abundant or with strategic narcotrafficking corridors: the Pacific coast of Nariño, Catatumbo, Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, Norte del Cauca, and Magdalena.”
The presence of Mexican cartels in the country coincides with places where coca crops are more abundant or with strategic narcotrafficking corridors: the Pacific coast of Nariño, Catatumbo, Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, Norte del Cauca, and Magdalena,” report X-Ray of the Ominous Presence of the Mexican Cartels.
The most active Mexican cartel in Colombian territory is the Sinaloa Cartel, which partners with the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish), and the criminal gang Clan del Golfo, the news agency Reuters reported. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel has ties with a group in Buenaventura, the main Colombian port on the Pacific, Reuters added.
These criminal groups “have increased the funding and arming of Colombian narcotrafficking groups,” the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board said in a March 25, 2020 report.
“There are drug cartels from other countries that have hired snipers and planted antipersonnel mines to prevent eradication efforts,” Colombian President Iván Duque told El Tiempo.
Mexican narcotraffickers “decided […] to participate directly in cocaine production in Colombia, not only to buy, but also to invest in production directly through organizations,” León Valencia, head of Pares, told the news agency EFE during the presentation of the report.
“The Mexican cartels were subordinate […] to the Colombian cartels, but that relationship has already been reversed; in reality, the drug lords, the bosses of bosses, are the Mexicans,” Valencia said.
“We see that, if [illegal groups] manage to contact Colombian organizations, they can greatly increase their social control; they can greatly increase their power.”
The Pares Foundation has identified 97 illegal groups in the country, “and a large number have partnered with Mexican [cartels], 27 of which are on the border with Venezuela,” Valencia concluded.