Los Pepes, a name derived from the Spanish phrase "Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar" ("People persecuted by Pablo Escobar"), was a short-lived vigilante group composed of enemies of drug lord Pablo Escobar. They waged a small-scale war against Escobar's Medellín Cartel in the early 1990s which ended in 1993 with Escobar's death and fracturing of the Medellín Cartel. The two main leaders of Los Pepes were Don Berna and Fidel Castaño, both former employees of Escobar.
While the name suggested that all, or most, members of Los Pepes were previously persecuted by Escobar, most likely only a handful of the group's members had suffered at the hands of the notorious drug kingpin. Many members were allegedly rival drug traffickers. Los Pepes were allegedly funded by the rival Cali Cartel, the Castaño Brothers as well as other unknown persons or groups.
There are reports that Los Pepes had ties to some members of the Colombian National Police, especially the Search Bloc (Bloque de Búsqueda), with whom they exchanged information in order to execute their activities against Escobar. According to documents released to the public by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2008, "Colombian National Police director general Miguel Antonio Gómez Padilla said 'that he had directed a senior CNP intelligence officer to maintain contact with Fidel Castaño, paramilitary leader of Los Pepes, for the purposes of intelligence collection.'"
Los Pepes is also strongly tied to Centra Spike, a covert ops group that was heading, in large part, the hunt for Pablo Escobar. There is evidence that Los Pepes acted on CIA/DEA/SFOD-D intelligence to launch their missions. This actually became some concern for the U.S. as it appeared they would be linked to some of the retaliation acts linked to cutting off Escobar's power (most of these attacks were against his sources of money and negotiations with the government; i.e. his lawyers).
After Escobar's death in 1993, several of their leaders eventually went on to become the heads of a national paramilitary alliance in Colombia, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a vigilante group that is responsible for numerous massacres and political assassinations in Colombia. The Castaño Brothers (Carlos 1965-2004, Vicente and Fidel, who went missing in 1994) were founders of several paramilitary groups and the driving force behind the AUC's creation.
The Institute for Policy Studies is searching for details of what connections the U.S. CIA and DEA had to Los Pepes. They have launched a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the CIA.
Mark Bowden's book Killing Pablo (ISBN 0-14-200095-7) highlights some of the operations of Los Pepes and describes some of the forms of cooperation and support that the group allegedly received from members of the Colombian National Police.
- Diego Murillo Bejarano
- Carlos Castaño
- Fidel Castaño
- Cordoba and Uraba Peasants Self-Defense
- United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
- Bowden, Mark. Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (2001; ISBN 0-87113-783-6)
- Information paper on Los Pepes
- Uppsala Conflict Data Program Conflict Encyclopedia, Colombia, non-state Conflict, Medellín Cartel - PEPES, 1993, http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/gpcountry.php?id=35®ionSelect=5-Southern_Americas#
- Los Pepes: desde Pablo Escobar hasta Don Berna, Macaco y Don Mario, Santiago La Rotta, Natalia Morales, editorial Planeta, 2009
- Bowden, 179.
- Bowden, 197.
- "human rights watch | colombia ? guerra sin cuartel". Hrw.org. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- "Paramilitaries and the United States: "Unraveling the Pepes Tangled Web"". Gwu.edu. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- Bowden, 216.
- Bowden, p.188.
- "Equipo Nizkor - ¿Cuál fue la relación de la DEA y la CIA con Los Pepes?". Derechos.org. Retrieved 2011-03-15.