Colombia Security Threats

Data and information about security threats from Colombia’s black market. Intelligence data and other security information collected from government agencies, news reports and other public information sources.

Between 2010 and August 2013, police in Colombia seized 29.7 tons of minerals from Tiger Hill, an illegal mine operated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The mineral that is mined out of Tiger Hill is tungsten, which is used by global manufactures to produce liquid-crystal-display screens, smartphones and high-end car parts.  85 percent of the world’s supply comes from China.

In a report by Bloomberg Markets, a tungsten broker stated that he paid $3.14 (6,000 Colombian Pesos) to miners for the mineral. The miners reportedly were authorized by FARC soldiers to sell the minerals.

Source:  Michael Smith, “How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan,” Bloomberg Markets, August 7, 2013.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that the amount of cocaine produced in the Andes region in 2012 was down 10 percent from the previous year.

Bolivia produced 155 metric tons of pure cocaine in 2012, down 18 percent from 2011.

Colombia produced 175 metric tons, down 7.9 percent from the previous year.

Peru produced 290 metric tons, down 4.9 percent from the year before.

In the span of 10 years, the amount of cocaine produced in the region declined by 41 percent.

The three countries are the largest producers of cocaine in the world, with the United States being the largest consumers of cocaine worldwide.

Source:  Eric Martin, “Cocaine Output in Andes Region Falls 10% Amid Eradication Effort,” Bloomberg, July 9, 2013.

Security officials in Colombia report that illegal mining of gold has become a more profitable activity for FARC, ELN and other organized crime gangs in the country.

According to a police official, a kilogram of cocaine sold in the Colombia jungle is sold for $2,570 (5 Million Colombian Pesos).  Based on the current world market price for gold, a kilogram of gold could be sold for up to 19 times the price of cocaine.

In addition to the higher prices for gold, the armed rebels are able to sell more gold in a shorter period of time. To harvest cocaine in the jungles, a farmer would need expertise in harvesting cocaine and the process generally takes up to 6 months. In comparison, an illegal gold mining operation can extract up to 2 kilograms of gold each week.

In 2012, police shut down 330 illegal gold mines across the country. In the first half of 2013, police shut down 336 illegal mines.

Source:  Andrew Willis, “Gold Beats Cocaine as Colombia Rebel Money Maker: Police,” Bloomberg Businessweek, June 21, 2013.

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Criminal justice programs in Colombia reported that 786 criminal gangs were broken up within the country in 2012. In addition to the actions against the organized crime groups, police and security services captured 242 drug traffickers and extradited 192 traffickers to foreign nations.

40 drug trafficking networks were also dismantled by police.

Police also reported on actions targeting microtrafficking, or street level drug dealing. Through their operations, government security agents seized 99,184 kilograms of cocaine, 132,182 tablets of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy, and 292,220 kilograms of marijuana.

2,038 people who involved in kidnapping and ransom incidents were also arrested in 2012.

Source:  James Bargent, “Colombia Police Dismantle 100s of Gangs in 2012,” Insight Crime, June 21, 2013.

Between 1970 and 2010, there were at least 39,058 people who were kidnapped in Colombia, according to a study released in 2013. In the last year covered by the study, around 1,000 people were kidnapped in 2010.

Out of the total number of kidnappings, up to 301 people were kidnapped more than once, and one person was found to have been kidnapped 5 times.

8 percent of the kidnapping cases lead to a conviction.

Source:  Sibylla Brodzinsky, “Kidnapping in Colombia: The role of abductions in decades-long conflict,” Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2013.

According to estimates by security and intelligence agencies, an estimated 345 tons of cocaine is produced in Colombia each year. Out of this total, around 20 percent, or 70 tons, is consumed domestically in the country. The cocaine used in Colombia is generally used in a powder form or in the cheaper form of cocaine base.

640 tons of marijuana is consumed in Colombia each year, with only 30 percent of the marijuana produced in Colombia being exported to other countries.

(Price of cocaine around the world.)

Source:  James Bargent, “Growing Local Drug Market Fuels Colombia’s Underworld,” Insight Crime, May 29, 2013.

Wildlife traffickers offer sloths for sale in Cordoba, Colombia for around $30.

Animal experts say that many people buy sloths as pets, but do not understand the difficulty in raising and caring for the animals. For example, a zoologist told ABC News that they sloths survive on a complicated diet of about 40 different plant species.

The illegal wildlife trade in Colombia was estimated to have trafficked up to 60,000 animals in 2012.

(See more prices of animals for sale on the black market.)

Source:  John Schriffen and Alex Waterfield, “Hottest-Selling Animal in Colombia’s Illegal Pet Trade: Sloths,” ABC News, Nightline, May 28, 2013.

Financial experts estimate that up to $17 Billion of money from drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking in Colombia is laundered each year. The amount of money laundering that takes place in Colombia is over 5 percent of the country’s GDP.

Out of the total amount laundered in the country, an estimated $8.8 Billion is proceeds from Colombia’s illegal drug trade.

In 2012, federal security officials seized $128 Million worth of black market products, less than 10 percent of the total illicit trade.

In an example of how the money is laundered, authorities stated that one way is through fake gold sales. Colombia produces 15 tons of gold each  year, but the amount of gold that is exported from the country is reported to be 70 tons. The bulk of the higher reported gold sales is believed to be fictitious sales.

(More examples of money laundering.)

Source:  Helen Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra, “Money laundering distorts Colombia’s economic comeback,” Reuters, May 28, 2013.

A professional hitman working in Colombia was interviewed by journalist Ioan Grillo in his book, El Narco. The contract killer said that he is paid a base salary of $600 a month by an organized crime group. When the assassin is assigned a hit, he is paid between $2,000 to $4,000 to carry out the murder.

(Income from under the table jobs.)

The assassin works in a squad where one team is on a bike and another driving in a car. On the bike, there is a drive and the shooter riding behind. The target is stopped by the car braking in front of it, while the bike pulls up next to it to carry out the hit. The shooter then immediately passes the gun to the driver of the car, where it is hidden in a secret compartment.

(More contract killings and hitman prices.)

Source:  Ioan Grillo, El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, Bloomsbury Press: New York, 2012, page 158-159.

Basuco is a form of low grade cocaine that is widely used in Colombia.

In the city of Bogata, an estimated 7,000 users are living in the city, each taking up to 15 to 20 hits a day.

Each hit costs less than a dollar.

(More cocaine street prices here.)

Source:  Ted Hesson, “Fighting Drug Addiction With Marijuana,” ABC News, April 1, 2013.