Following the capture of alias Otoniel, Colombia’s most wanted narcotrafficker and former leader of the Clan del Golfo, in late October 2021, authorities closed in on the criminal group. In an eight-day operation carried out in the first half of November, the Colombian Police, Army, and Office of the Attorney General arrested 90 people suspected of involvement with the criminal group.
“An investigative and effective operation structurally impacted all the components of the Clan del Golfo, such as combatants, financiers, the entire narcotrafficking structure and logistics,” Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa Delgado said.
The criminals were charged with murder, extortion of merchants and farmers, as well as manufacturing and selling drugs and firearms. According to the attorney general, the arrests helped clarify 27 violent deaths that occurred in 2021.
Barbosa also said that “the interinstitutional effort affected four structures and 11 substructures of the Clan del Golfo.” The attorney general was referring to the way the group is organized, with criminal cells directly linked to the central command, and branching out through smaller factions.
He highlighted the capture of Hernán Mejía Galindo, alias Marlon, considered to be the main leader of the Héroes del Caribe substructure, with 168 armed men under his command, according to investigations, and the capture of Jhonny Alexander Mesa Sánchez, alias Jhonny, accused of exporting drugs to Central America from the city of Turbo, in Antioch department. This department, where the Clan del Golfo’s headquarters are located, was one of seven where the raids were carried out.
Of the 90 arrests made in the mega operation, 74 were pursuant to court orders and 16 were made on the spot.
Authorities continued their efforts against members of the Clan del Golfo following the mega operation. Other leaders, such as Robinson Antonio Plaza Vega, alias El Loco, captured on November 28, were also detained. Alias El Loco is accused of masterminding the main attacks in the Bajo Cauca region, in a territorial dispute with other criminal organizations. According to the Colombian Office of the Attorney General, he is believed to be one of the main sponsors of violent acts against civilians and public forces in retaliation for the capture of narcotrafficker alias Otoniel.