An alleged army report said alias “Carlos Pesebre,” the captured “leader” of Medellin‘s largest crime syndicate Oficina de Envigado, could have been seeking a peace deal with the neo-paramilitary organization Los Urabeños over the control of the city’s underworld.
The 39-year-old crime boss was captured Tuesday at dawn in a hotel in the Urrao municipality west of Medellin together with nine bodyguards, in what police had dubbed Operation Sparta II. Among the captured in the police raid were two demobilized members of the paramilitary AUC‘s Heroes of Grenada Bloc.
According to the information from the Colombian army cited by newspaper El Colombiano, the alleged Oficina leader could have travelled to Urrao to negotiate with members of the rival neo-paramilitary group Los Urabeños.
The two groups are currently believed to be engaged in a bloody war for control over the drug trade in Colombia’s second largest city Medellin.
According to reports, Pesebre was one of the few Oficina leaders who wanted peace with the neo-paramilitaries.
At the time of his arrest, police described Pesebre as “the terror of [Medellin’s] Comuna 13” district, although some locals saw him as a kind of Robin Hood figure who kept the neighborhood calm. One resident of the Comuna 13, speaking to newspaper El Colombiano, said street crime could change for the worse after the arrest of the suspected Oficina leader.
“To me it is sad that they have captured him. He always kept the neighborhood very healthy, here it never happened that they robbed you, now this will be damaged,” said the resident.
Pesebre’s Criminal Past
According to police, the leader of Medellin’s largest crime syndicate spent two decades establishing his influence in the city’s criminal underworld, before the Prosecutor General was able to issue an order of capture last Saturday.
Colombia’s Unit against Emerging Gangs held Pesebre responsible for homicide, extortion, forced displacement and drug trafficking. With this information, police launched Sparta II to arrest Pesebre, whose real name is Freyner Alfonso Ramirez Garcia.
A police report said the Oficina leader had 200 men dedicated to “assassination and drug trafficking” directly under his command.
According to the report, Pesebre was a rival of the former Oficina commander “Sebastian,” who supposedly contacted the extradited drug lord “El Loco Barrera” to put an end to Pesebre’s power over micro trafficking within the syndicate.
Police said Pesebre was the “intellectual author” of several murders during his time as an Oficina member. On June 15, 2006 four young men were murdered in Medellin’s Santa Rosa de Lima neighborhood, and police blamed Pesebre.
Furthermore, the arrested Oficina leader is suspected of participating in the 2007 murder of Judith Vergara Correa, a human rights activist and member of the leftist Polo Democratico party.
The Oficina commander was believed to have started his career as a militia member of an unspecified guerrilla group, after which he joined the Heroes of Granada Bloc under the command of the notorious paramilitary and drug lord “Don Berna.” As a mid-level commander, Pesebre was ordered to take and hold Medellin’s violent 13th and 7th Comunas.
“He and his men [tried] to win over the people, they distributed goods, helped the homeless [during the rainy season], gave gifts for the children on Halloween, and they kept thieves, rapists and [the] depraved in line,” said a witness to El Colombiano.
Pesebre did not demobilize with the rest of the Heroes of Granada Bloc in 2005, instead, he kept a low profile to avoid prosecution. For some years he was even rumored to be dead. While judicial processes against Pesebre stalled, he went to the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena in northern Colombia to set up drug trafficking routes, using a false name.
According to alleged juridical documents, the Oficina leader kept “broad” relations with corrupt state officials, and even succeeded in getting an apartment “next to the Fourth Brigade, where they had reunions.”
Police said the base of Pesebre’s microtrafficking and extortion operations was the Aburra valley, where Medellin is located, but he also established crime “offices” in other Colombian regions.
Due to the fractured state of Oficina de Envigado, the arrested leader was not believed to have controlled the entire syndicate, instead, his prime zones of influence were said to be in the 7, 11, 12 and 13th communes of Medellin and in the city’s San Cristobal district, where he commanded an Oficina-linked faction known as “Odin Robledo.”
In total, Pesebre was said to exert control over more than 20 armed neighborhood gangs, known as “Combos.” Still, the Oficina is currently believed to be split into six different “clans,” with the other factions allegedly controlled by “Tom”, “Fredy Colas”, “Barny”, “Pichi” and “Don Pepe,” who are thought to be against peace with Los Urabeños.
State of the Oficina
Meanwhile, Medellin’s mayor Anibal Gaviria Correa said Tuesday’s capture was an “important step” in the fight against organized crime.
“This is also a … message to the structures and criminal leaders … the authorities are more and more united and with better results in this [struggle] and we will continue in this direction,” said Gaviria.
Oficina de Envigado, named after the municipality where it was born, is Medellin’s largest crime syndicate. It was originally formed as an assassination branch of Pablo Escobar‘s Medellin cartel. After the death of Escobar in 1993, the Oficina became largely independent and overtook many of the defunct cartel’s extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking rackets.
After the extradition of “Don Berna,” the leader of the Oficina, to the United States in 2008 to face drug trafficking charges, the syndicate splintered into several rivaling factions. The most prominent of these factions were led by alias Sebastian and alias “Valenciano,” two former hit men turned commanders. The latter was arrested in Venezuela in 2011, while Sebastian was captured by Colombian police just north of Medellin in 2012.
Carlos Pesebre was believed to be one of the commanders, together with alias “Pichi” (captured in February 2013), who rose to prominence after the arrest of Sebastian.
Some time after the demobilization of the AUC, neo-paramilitaries from the northwestern Uraba region, known as Los Urabeños, started to make incursions into Medellin’s metropolitan area, thereby threatening the Oficina’s control over drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.
- Operación Esparta II (Police report)
- Se derrumba el mito criminal de alias “Carlos Pesebre” (El Colombiano)
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e del Cuerpo Élite de Objetivos de Alto Valor contra la delincuenc ia (Press release)
- Oficina de Derechos Humanos condena asesinato de activista en Colombia (UN)