Colombia Concludes 2018 with Success in the Fight against Organized Crime
By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo January 22, 2019During joint, coordinated, and interagency operations carried out in the last quarter of 2018, the Colombian Armed Forces dismantled the most important support network of the Residual Organized Armed Group (GAOR, in Spanish) Estructura Primera, in the south-central part of the country. The Colombian Army, National Police, and Attorney General’s Technical Investigation Corps led the operations that facilitated the capture of six members of the criminal ring.
The criminals, alias Capuyo, Chamizo, Cocuyo, La Flaca, Nadin, and Rigo, had arrest warrants for extortion; murder; aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime; terrorism; use, production, and storage of antipersonnel mines; and transport and storage of illicit substances. The ring operated in the municipalities of El Retorno and Calamar, Guaviare department, and controlled riverine corridors in the region.
By dismantling this network, the Armed Forces dealt a blow to the financial subsystem of Estructura Primera. Colombia concluded 2018 showing its commitment to put an end to organized crime and fight for the security of people.
Kingpin goes down
Authorities made the first arrest in October 2018. The 22nd Jungle Brigade and troops of the 32nd Land Operations Battalion, among other Army units, deployed to Calamar municipality to arrest William Alexander Álvarez Hoyos, alias Chamizo, leader of the GAOR’s support network. “We did six to seven months’ worth of thorough intelligence and prosecution work on this criminal, until the arrest warrant was issued,” Army Colonel John Mauricio Acuña Aldana, commander of the 24th Jungle Infantry Battalion who participated in the operation, told Diálogo.
With 13 years in the network, Chamizo received direct orders from Iván Mordisco, the GAOR’s main leader. He was in charge of collecting money coming from the extortion of shopkeepers, stockbreeders, and farmers, as well as the cocaine base paste to be sold. Chamizo is also responsible for the murder of several people who refused to pay what the criminals demanded.
During the same operation, authorities captured two other dissidents, Rigoberto Guerrero Otálora, alias Rigo, and Nadyn Parada Redes, alias Nadin. According to the Army, at the time of the arrest, the criminals rode motorcycles and carried 10 kilograms of cocaine base paste.
Two other operations took place in October, in El Retorno and Calamar municipalities. The security forces’ actions ended with the arrest of Luis Lozano Buriticá, alias Capullo, and Luz Dary Patiño Ascencio, alias La Flaca.
Detention of a sixth member
The last gang member was caught on November 18, in an operation in El Retorno municipality by troops of the Army's 22nd Jungle Brigade and the 24th Jungle Infantry Battalion. A human source allowed the Army to locate and detain Luis Orlando Castilla Molano, alias Cocuyo, who was the logistics coordinator of the GAOR’s support network since 2014.
“This criminal is very important in the organization [the GAOR Estructura Primera],” said Col. Acuña. “His role was prominent in that sector; for example, he obtained war and military material. He was in charge of almost all the logistics flow in that sector.”
Units of the security forces monitored the area, as well as the movements of Cocuyo and his accomplices, for months, collecting the necessary intelligence to launch the operations and facilitate the group’s prosecution. “We conducted an occupation operation in those locations [El Retorno and Calamar]. We arrived around August, and started intelligence work to get the exact location of these GAOR members,” said Col. Acuña.
According to the Army, the dismantlement of this criminal network destabilized Estructura Primera’s finances, but also affected its organization and command system, because the group lacked time to train new members who could be trusted. The Army also indicated that some of the youth who led the organization fled with the money collected.
“This is a very sensitive job. We managed to penetrate the structures, find out details about their modus operandi, and become aware of how these tentacles operate,” Army Colonel Federico Alberto Mejía Torres, commander of the 22nd Jungle Brigade, told Diálogo. “Right now, we are working on seizing assets, because we know about many of their properties.”
Col. Mejía said that from October to December 2018, the Armed Forces captured 11 members of several GAOR. Thorough intelligence work, conducted with support from the institutions and agencies of the country’s security forces, contributed to the latest achievements, he said.
“Like the motto of the [Colombian Armed Forces] General Command says, together we are invincible,” Col. Mejía concluded. “This joint work enabled us to bring together all the intelligence, the best personnel, all aimed at confronting these terrorists, who still operate illegally.”