The head of one of several narco-paramilitary groups disputing Colombia’s lucrative drug real estate on the Eastern Plains has been murdered in Bogota, which could help tip the balance in the conflict in favor of a group allied to the Urabeños.

Armando Carvajal Morales, alias 'Mello'
Armando Carvajal Morales, alias ‘Mello’

Armando Carvajal Morales, alias “Mello,” was gunned down in an upscale hair salon in northern Bogota on October 4, with his killer escaping on a waiting motorcycle. The assassination initially received little coverage, with the Carvajal reported to be a rancher and the victim of a “revenge” attack, reported El Tiempo.

However, police have now confirmed that he was considered the top commander of a group known as the Rudos, which is currently fighting for control of key cocaine production and trafficking land in the country’s Eastern Plains region. According to police, Carvajal had 50 men under his direct control and led the Rudos alongside his brother Martin Carvajal, alias “Kike,” reported El Tiempo.

The Rudos are one of several warring factions of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC), once the dominant power in the Eastern Plains. The region is thought to generate up to $300 million per year in cocaine sales.

Through violence, corruption and strategic alliances, the ERPAC, led by Pedro Oliveiro Guerreo, alias “Cuchillo,” became the main player in the Eastern Plains drug trade following the demobilization of the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

However, in the wake of Cuchillo’s death, Jose Eberto Lopez, alias “Caracho” attempted to lead the ERPAC, but found himself shackled by infighting. Caracho demobilized in mid-2012, leaving a power vacuum that several faction leaders have sought to fill. The battle was complicated by the arrest of drug trafficker Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco” in September 2012, who had worked closely with the ERPAC. The guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Urabeños have also sought to gain ground in the region by building alliances with the various factions.

Among those fighting for control is one of the ERPAC’s former top commander Martin Farfan Diaz, alias “Pijarvey,” who was last year released from prison after serving three years of a four year sentence for criminal conspiracy. According to InSight Crime field research, Pijarvey may have struck a deal with the Urabeños, which would stand him in good stead to take control of the region, especially as one more rival has now been eliminated.

Source: Insight Crime