Campaign financing and political favors have given organized crime groups almost unprecedented access to government, including the administration of President Ivan Duque.
Through corruption and infiltration, Colombia’s mafias have made themselves almost untouchable for law enforcement from Tumaco in southwest Colombia all the way to Washington DC.
The power to take down presidents
The US Department of Justice (DOJ), for example, has yet to indict alleged drug lord Marquitos Figueroa despite his arrest in Brazil in 2014. In Colombia, the alleged mafia boss has seen all criminal charges go up in smoke except for one homicide.
Meanwhile, President Ivan Duque and his political party are in legal trouble over their ties to one of Figueroa’s late money launderers and the drug trafficking organization’s 2018 campaign support.
Whether by lying of telling the truth, the alleged mafia boss from the northern La Guajira province has the power to take down the government and embarrass the DOJ.
Figueroa is just one of several whose astute manipulation of politics has been beneficial for their fate in court or criminal activity.
Access to all levels of government
“Los Rastrojos,” a Norte del Valle Cartel spin-off, were able to consolidate control over the Venezuelan border doing a favor to Duque and Venezuela’s opposition to whom they had access through regional politicians.
“La Constru,” an organized crime group from the south, allegedly found their way to Congress after cutting jailed former House Representative Jimmy Harold in on an illegal mining racket.
The brother of Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria, a cousin of late drug lord Pablo Escobar, has publicly admitted his ties to crime syndicate “Oficina de Envigado,” which is largely dedicated to money laundering in Medellin.
The scandals compromising Bogota may be just the tip of the iceberg, according to electoral observers, who warned ahead of the 2019 local and regional elections that organized crime groups were targeting lower-level politicians to protect drug trafficking routes or illegal mining operations.
Corruption and infiltration
All of the aforementioned organized crime groups have access to local law enforcement and the military through corruption or by helping the security forces fight common enemies like guerrilla group ELN.
The Titan Joint Task Force has been accused of working together with the AGC, Colombia’s largest paramilitary group that is accused by US authorities of also being the country’s largest drug trafficking organization.
The former commander of the Medellin-based 4th Brigade is in jail after evidence he was trafficking arms for “La Oficina.”
The crime syndicate infiltrated of the National Police’s controversial “Citizens Participation Network” that allowed their assassins chief in Medellin to avoid clashes with local police by monitoring their activity.
The mafias have exploited the weaknesses of Colombia’s political system and security forces to the point they have become untouchable.
Political corruption has eroded public confidence to the point that many politicians can only get elected using the very corruption that destroyed popular support.
Corruption in the security forces has diminished their capacity to the point that both police and the military have become reliant on the criminal forces that corrupted them in the first place.
Growing public distrust of the security forces in turn allows illegal armed groups to present themselves as a reliable alternative authority to safeguard public order and further erode the authority of state institutions.