Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, AKA Don Berna, was born in Tuluá, Colombia, on February 23, 1961. He started in crime with the Popular Liberation Army, and then he ended up providing secutiry services to Fernando Galeano, AKA “El Negro”, a partner of Pablo Escobar who ended his days exterminated by the leader of the cartel.
He actively collaborated in the persecution and death of Escobar as part of the group called “Los Pepes”, as they called the group that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and the Cali Cartel created to face the war with Don Pablo.
He was the leader of the armed group with criminal purposes called “La Terraza ” with which in the end he would fight a duel. In 2003, he turned himself in to the authorities as part of a peace process and later in 2008, he was extradited to the United States, where he is currently being held for a sentence of 31 years.
Don Berna, The Popular Liberation Army and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
The German political scientist Hannah Arendt, in her various publications about totalitarianism, did not differentiate the political orientations of the left or right regimes because she started from the principle that both used the same methods of subjection of societies.
That idea applies to every human group: Institutions, political parties, companies, criminal organizations. The mechanisms to obtain the submission and collaboration of its members are based on the terror that they can instill in them, in the generous awards to the informers and to those who comply with the orders entrusted to them.
The Popular Liberation Army
The Popular Liberation Army was a political movement dedicated to the subversion of the democratic order in Colombia to replace it with a state shaped according to the guidelines of Marxism-Leninism, with the general objective of making the political transformations of the nation. Murillo was associated with a dissident extermination group of the PLA called “Red Star”.
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
At the same time, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia of extreme right orientation were formed with the purpose of directly fighting communist-inspired armed groups given the lack of results of the Colombian State institutions in their fight.
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia received political and financial support from businessmen, ranchers, high-level officials of the Colombian State who considered themselves to be real or potential victims of the military actions of the Colombian guerrilla.
Murillo was a partner of the leaders of this group, to the point that he demobilized as a member of it, to take advantage of the procedural benefits derived from the results of the negotiation with the Colombian State.
Don Berna’s reasons for being in opposing sides had more to do with his own interests related to criminal activities than with ideological and principled affinities.
Don Berna Takes Over Medellín
After Pablo Escobar’s death, there were many pending tasks to be done in the Medellin Cartel.
The personal style of leadership of the recently deceased, his sudden but not unexpected death and the imprisonment or dejection of the other leaders of the cartel, left an organization without direction.
With a market unattended and many accounts receivable, there were many people interested in inheriting the business.
One of them was “Don Berna” who, taking advantage of the leadership he possessed, it took immediate control of the organization.
Don Berna Creates the Armed Group “La Terraza”
Through the group “La Terraza”, Don Berna obtained the submission and cooperation of the criminal gangs that ravaged the neighborhoods of Medellín.
These groups were in charge of kidnapping, extorting, stealing banks, trucks with merchandise for legal businesses, as well as “vacunas” to protect the businessmen from criminal actions.
Each criminal act strengthened the cash flow of the group and allowed them to venture into more ambitious activities, by expanding their range of action and feeding Murillo’s aspirations of having his own terrace where to look at what was happening.
For this reason, Don Berna decided to dismiss the one who showed in his opinion a lot of independence of criteria and an extravagant life that put him in evidence before the police authorities that followed his track; Miguel Ángel Pérez Madrid aka “Tigrillo”.
The position of Tigrillo was assumed by who was considered someone more reliable and discreet, Elkin Sánchez aka “El Negro”. Sanchez, following orders of the leaders of “La Terraza” coordinated the murder and kidnapping of several personalities declared as military targets by the criminal organization that was distinguished by the efficient performance of assigned tasks.
Don Berna Loses Control of “La Terraza”
In early 1999, there were disagreements between Diego Murillo and the rest of the group, who in addition to start acting on their own, it began to get for themselves what they considered the leaders denied.
The operative arm of “La Terraza” in an operation not authorized by its board of directors, attacked the “Villa Paola” building, located in Los Laureles, Medellín.
The action left several victims and a fact that definitely changed the relationship among the members of the criminal group: The “disappearance” of millions of US dollars owned by Carlos Castaño.
This manifestation of autonomy joined the arrest of Fabio Ochoa Vásquez, in Operation Milenio executed by the Colombian Police and the US DEA.
The routes controlled by Fabio Ochoa were left without an owner and La Terraza claimed control of part of them, but this was not accepted and therefore the group revolts.
Don Berna Creates a New Armed Group, “The Office of Envigado”
Diego Murillo and Carlos Castaño would not allow this new insurrection so they organized an operation to quell it immediately. They created “The Office”, another armed body to confront the insubordinates.
Carlos Castaño as a spokesman for “The Office”, invited the members of “La Terraza” to a meeting with the purpose of fraternizing with a view to the cessation of the conflict that had left many deceased during its development and to undertake new mutually beneficial actions.
The henchmen of the Office intercepted the enemy group on their way to the meeting place, they executed them on public roads and threw their corpses into the Sinú River. It is estimated that the victims reached the number of 9 people.
After this fact, “The Office” announced what happened to the Government of Antioquia describing it as: “… a method of radical justice, but inevitable” as well as auguring the end of urban violence derived from the confrontation among the sides.
The War Continues
The members of “La Terraza” who were not on the guest list responded with attacks and car-bombs, placed in strategic places adorned with messages on videos and interviews with the media, accusing Murillo and Castaño directly of being the masterminds of several crimes in addition to giving the names of the collaborators present in the security bodies of the State.
The last assassinated of the group was Danny Posada aka “New Wave”, reason why the forces commanded by Murillo lined up their actions against the so-called “Metro Block” that was commanded by Carlos García aka “Doble Cero”, his former partner in “Los Pepes”. The Murillo thing was the permanent quarrel.
Don Berna’s Capture and Extradition
On November 25, 2003, Don Berna laid down his arms and handed himself over to the Colombian justice during the negotiation process that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia developed with the government.
He was initially imprisoned in the Itaguí jail, but according to the investigative bodies, he continued to incur remotely in crimes and he was transferred to the Combita prison.
On May 13, 2008, he was extradited to the United States along with 13 paramilitary commanders, a country whose justice requested him for having evidence that he was leading narcotics trafficking activities, money laundering operations on behalf of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and for not having complied with the agreements established in the framework of the Justice and Peace Law by hiding his participation in many criminal acts and not compensating his victims.
Don Berna and The Television
Don Berna is interpreted in different television series, among them:
- In Escobar, “The Drug Lord” appears under the name of Libardo. His role is embodied by the actor Beto Arango.
- In the Narcos series, Mauricio Cujar gives life to the character of Don Berna.