Emerald czar Victor Carranza died on Thursday in Bogota from complications resulting from cancer; his death has created a power vacuum in the highly profitable emerald industry.
Carranza died at age 78 due to complications derived from lung and prostate cancer, according to Catholic Bishop Hector Gutierrez. Gutierrez had reportedly been attending the so-called emerald czar in his final days. Given his massive share of the industry, Carranza’s death may result in violent disputes over emerald mining territory.
Carranza was believed to control half of all emerald mining in Colombia, which accounts for 60% of the world’s emerald trade. He warned that his death could result in a violent power struggle for control of the multi-million dollar trade.
In the early 1990s Carranza brokered a peace deal with the help of the Catholic chruch to end Colombia’s “Green war” which had left thousands dead since its inception in the 1960s. He has dominated the industry since.
In an Al Jazeera documentary, Carranza said, “The peace we signed 23 years ago is cracking. It’s damaged. People don’t treat it with the respect we gave it when we reached those compromises and that is a very grave and delicate thing. And I don’t like it.”
Carranza has been linked to the right-wing paramilitary group AUC. According to a declassified United States government report, Carranza was accused of facilitating an AUC massacre in Miraflores of the Boyaca department. The accusations in the report were backed up by a former AUC member, Fredy Rendon Herrera, alias “El Aleman.”
El Aleman told the Justice and Peace Tribunal that in the early years the AUC was sustained by regional farmers, stock-breeders and tradesmen and that later it was “powerfully financed by financial and logistic contributions of emerald trader Victor Carranza, a recognized member and sponsor of the paramilitaries of Henry Perez in Puerto Boyoca and later, in April 1997, of cofounder of the AUC, alias ‘Clodomiro Agaz’.”
Other former paramilitary have also accused Carranza of financing their operations, including Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” Elkin Casarrubia, alias “El Cura,” Dumar Guerrero, alias “Carecuchillo,” and Manuel Piraban, alias “Jorge Pirata.”