Colombian authorities say the leader of one of the country’s most powerful criminal groups has been shot dead by bodyguards.
Officials say Ángel de Jesús Pacheco, known as “Sebastian,” was killed Monday in the northwestern province of Antioquia, and that his body was found tied to a tree, showing signs of torture.
They say Pacheco was the leader of Los Rastrojos, one of Colombia’s criminal gangs.
Earlier, an international research institution said quickly evolving criminal gangs in Colombia are seeking to expand their influence in local elections this October, and could reverse a decade-long trend of decreasing electoral violence.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report that illegal armed groups seek to consolidate and expand their hold over local governments in October’s gubernatorial, mayoral, departmental assembly and municipal council elections. The group also said the gangs are fast becoming larger, more robust criminal networks, and some could develop a more ambitious political agenda.
The research institution said the government of President Juan Manuel Santos must rigorously implement measures to protect candidates and shield the electoral process against criminal infiltration, corruption and fraud. It described the upcoming vote as the first electoral test for President Santos, who took office in August of last year.
Colombia has been mired in a nearly 50-year civil war involving the government, leftist rebels and rightist paramilitaries. The conflict has left thousands dead. Last month, President Santos signed legislation aimed at offering restitution to victims of the nation’s violence.