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Los Pepes, a name derived from the Spanish phrase "Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar" ("Persecuted by Pablo Escobar"), was a vigilante group composed of enemies of Pablo Escobar. They waged a small-scale war against the Medellín Cartel in the early 1990s, which ended in 1993 following the death of Escobar. The group was financed by the Cali Cartel and was led by the Castaño brothers. An example of their acts could be seen on the streets of Medellín, such as hangings of Pablo's sicarios.
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'."
Given that the main objective of Los Pepes was to assassinate Escobar, they acted in the same way that the Medellín Cartel acted against their enemies: killing anyone who had any allegiance with Escobar, such as their guards, accountants or lawyers, in addition to directly threatening friends and family of Pablo Escobar. They were involved in the destruction of two haciendas that belonged to Hermilda Gaviria (Escobar's mother). They were characterized by the frequent use of explosives in their attacks.
After Escobar was shot and killed when fighting against the Search Bloc in 1993, several of their leaders eventually went on to become leaders of a national paramilitary alliance in Colombia, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary death squad that was formed not only for the purpose of fighting the Cartel but also the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla group. 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[when?] for details of what connections the CIA and DEA had to Los Pepes. They have launched a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the CIA. That suit has resulted in the declassification of thousands of documents from the CIA as well as other U.S. agencies including the Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration, Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S Coast Guard. These documents have been made public at the website Pepes Project.
Mark Bowden's book Killing Pablo 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
- Peasant Self-Defenders of Córdoba and Urabá
- United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
- "human rights watch | colombia ? guerra sin cuartel". Hrw.org. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- "Paramilitaries and the United States: "Unraveling the Pepes Tangled Web"". Gwu.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-06-14. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- "Pepes Project | Pepes Project". Archived from the original on 2017-09-18. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "Equipo Nizkor - ¿Cuál fue la relación de la DEA y la CIA con Los Pepes?". Derechos.org. Archived from the original on 2008-07-06. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- Bowden, Mark. Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (2001; ISBN 0-87113-783-6)
- Information paper on Los Pepes