The group controls the decades-old drug trafficking infrastructure that drives much of the economy in the southern Putumayo province.
The Border Commandos are the latest heir of a drug trafficking organization that was founded by former members of the paramilitary “Southern Putumayo Front” in 2006.
These dissident paramilitaries formed “La Constru,” which made a deal with the FARC’s 48th Front that controlled much of the coca fields in Putumayo.
The deal allowed the guerrillas to protect the production of cocaine in Putumayo and the Constru to sell the drugs to organized crime groups in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
The existential crisis
The Putumayo drug trade entered in crisis in 2016 when the FARC and former President Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace deal.
This deal promised farmers substitute crops if they destroyed their coca and regular jobs for the guerrillas who had been protecting the coca fields.
The vast majority of the guerrillas in Putumayo demobilized in early 2017 and Post-Conflict Minister Rafael Pardo traveled to the border region on May 7 that year.
Pardo told the farmers from Puerto Leguizamo that they were part of a pilot program that allowed them to substitute their crops and formally own of their lands.
The next morning, the farmers found a death threat on their doorsteps.
The peace process was only one of the Putumayo narcos’ problems.
Dissident guerrillas from the Guaviare province wanted to take over the Putumayo drug trade to finance what would later become the “Southeastern Bloc.”
The remaining 48th Front guerrillas began actively recruiting new members to make sure they had the manpower to confront the Southeastern Bloc in the event of a war.
Together with La Constru and corrupt members of the military, the guerrillas formed a drug trafficking organization that became known as “La Mafia” in 2018.
The group refused to join the Southeastern Bloc and the two organizations went to war in 2019.
The war escalated to the point that 13 people were assassinated in Puerto Asis, a municipality with less than 74,000 inhabitants, in January 2020 alone.
La Mafia changed its name to Comandos de La Frontera in September that year in an apparent attempt to justify the mass killing of farmers and community leaders.
The drug trafficking organization received support from the “Segunda Marquetalia,” a guerrilla group formed in 2019 by the FARC’s former political chief, “Ivan Marquez,” think tank Indepaz said last year.
In one of its pamphlets, the Comandos de la Frontera said to be combating corruption and defending Putumayo against “enemies” of the locals.
We will continue to concentrate our firepower to remove the cancer of corruption and defeat the enemies of the people of our Putumayo.
Comandos de la Frontera
The drug trafficking group failed to keep the Southeastern Bloc out of Putumayo, which has resulted in armed conflict throughout the province.