He has reportedly been involved in drug trafficking since the 1980s, initially working for the Ochoa crime family that founded the Medellin Cartel with Pablo Escobar. He later became an associate of the Cali Cartel.
At the end of the 90s, the alleged kingpin established several legitimate businesses in Colombia’s eastern plains, where coca cultivation, trading and drug trafficking make up a major chunk of the regional economy.
After moving to the eastern plains and while seeming a legit and successful businessman, Puntilla aligned with Daniel Barerra, a.k.a. “El Loco Barrera,” an up and coming crime lord from the region, who effectively became his criminal mentor for years.
Unlike more outlandish drug lords like Pablo Escobar, Barrera was known to almost invisibly dominate the trade by strategically forging alliances with both regional politicians and illegal armed groups involved in the country’s armed conflict.
In 2006, regional paramilitary commander “Cuchillo” deserted a paramilitary disarmament process and formed the ERPAC paramilitary group, maintaining his alliance with El Loco Barrera and the power balance in the eastern plains.
By 2008, authorities as high as then-President Alvaro Uribe alleged that Barrera and Cuchillo were not pursued, but protected by corrupt elements within the military and the police, exactly like they did with the AUC.
When investigators found part of the drug lord’s financial administration on a USB stick in 2012, his alleged pay roll included seven former mayors, nine regional and local lawmakers, a fiscal investigator and numerous guerrillas and paramilitaries.
In 2006, former AUC commander “Cuchillo” abandoned the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process and formed paramilitary group ERPAC, the organization that would ultimately be called Los Puntilleros.
As a new generation of paramilitary groups rearmed across the country, El Loco Barrera continued maintaining alliances with as many parties as possible.
According to CNN, his production and export activities led the crime lord to control 60% of all Colombia’s cocaine export to Europe.
Cuchillo died in a police operation in 2011 and El Loco Barrera was arrested in Venezuela in 2012, leaving both the drug trafficking business and significant control over the region’s primary enforcer army in the hands of Puntilla.
ERPAC split into the “Bloque Meta” and the “Libertadores de Vichada.” Puntilla was seemingly able to evade much of this paramilitary war and likely bartered an end to it ahead of his arrest in February 2016.
Reportedly creating alliances with the EPL in northeast Colombia and the AGC in the northeast, the apparently successful rancher became an important spider in an intricate web of transnational drug trafficking.
While in prison, authorities found out the alleged drug lord had ties high up in Colombia’s national politics and the justice system.
In April, 2016 authorities accidentally found $200,000 in cash in a congressman’s car. At the time of the find, the car with the money was driven by the son of Colombia’s congress’ then-finance chief and alleged to belong to “Puntilla.”
It wasn’t until after his arrest that authorities began referring to the alleged drug lord’s associate paramilitary groups as one drug trafficking organization, Los Puntilleros.
A little more than a year after his arrest, the alleged drug kingpin was released from prison on April 7, 2017 after a judge ruled Puntilla could await trial at home.
In spite of the more than 80 homicide investigations against him, the judge ruled the alleged drug lord was no threat to society. A second judge rejected provisional charges filed by the prosecution to prevent his release.
Puntilla went off the grid, but was found in a luxury apartment in Medellin’s most affluent district, Poblado, where he was shot by police allegedly for resisting his arrest in December 2018.