Judicial | 1/26/2009 12:00:00 AM
Colombian hitmen abroad
Spain is shocked by the presence of Colombian contract killers there. This phenomenon has also occurred in more than ten countries.
Contract killings and mafia collection operations is not a subject with which the Spaniards are accustomed. In addition, it is a phenomenon that deeply concerns authorities in that country since there are more and more frequent bloody murders by Colombians in different Spanish cities.
According to an investigation by the El Mundo newspaper, just in the last two years Colombian killers have assassinated 30 people on Spanish soil, and currently there are about 50 gangs of Colombian killers in that country. While in Spain they are astonished, the unfortunate truth is that it is not just a Spanish problem. In at least ten countries Colombian killers have committed murders and vendettas.
One of the most widely-known “jobs” of the Colombian assassins outside of Colombia was the murder last February of the head of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, Wilber Varela, in Merida, Venezuela. In Venezuelan states such as Táchira and Zulia, assassinations committed by Colombians are frequent. In October 2007, the murder of the emerald dealer Yesid Nieto in Guatemala was another of the more noteworthy cases which pointed to Colombian killers. In 2005, Colombian killers traveled to Acapulco, Mexico in order to dismember Jaime Pineda, alias “Pispis,” a former policeman who was part of the mafia group of Diego Montoya, alias “Don Diego.” But the killers did not travel outside of the country just to assassinate well-known capos like Varela, Nieto or Leonidas Vargas.
Although the majority of the killings are related with score-settling among different Colombian mafia groups, the efficiency and low costs of the Colombian killers make them highly in demand by criminal groups in several countries. In Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico, the killers are also contracted for local vendettas and they have installed permanent “offices.” The same is occurring in Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. In August of last year, for example, media headlines were captivated by a series of murders involving a gang of Colombian killers who committed the crimes in the middle of the day in a well-known shopping center in Buenos Aires.
The pursuit by the Colombian Police on some of the big collection offices of cartels such as those from Norte del Valle and Antioquia, has also been one of the causes why many suspected killers are abandoning Colombia and setting up shop in other countries. One of the big advantages that the killers have in order to set up in other countries is the scant experience that local authorities have combating that type of organization. While some countries have asked for help from Colombian entities to face the matter, unfortunately very little can be done to put the brakes on this growing and shameful export of killers.