FARC’s dissidents are losing power, while Colombian authorities keep the expansion of narcotrafficking and terrorist groups under control.
The Colombian Air Force (FAC, in Spanish) neutralized Édgar Salgado, alias Rodrigo Cadete, in an operation in Caquetá department, southeast Colombia. The combined operation to neutralize the former FARC member, leader of a Residual Organized Armed Group (GAOR, in Spanish), culminated on February 2.
“This operation sends a clear message to the country: This government is committed to supporting everyone who really wants to make a transition or reintegrate based on the principles of truth, justice, reparation, and no repetition,” Colombian President Iván Duque told the press. “We will be forceful, relentless, and with all the offensive, dissuasive, and punishing capabilities of our institutions.”
On January 26, Colombian National Police intelligence personnel located the GAOR camp where alias Cadete had arrived with 20 men. An operation was immediately drawn up under the Special Operations Joint Command in the rural area of San Vicente del Caguán, where the dissident leadership was to hold a meeting.
About 250 members of the Special Forces Brigade took part in the operation supported by FAC and the Colombian Marine Corps. After days of intelligence flights to ensure that no civilians were in the area, authorities defined the exact coordinates for the operation. Precision projectiles hit the camp. Ground combat enabled troops to detain 14 people and seize war materiel, computers, and satellite phones. Alias Cadete was one of 14 rebels neutralized.
The terrorist’s neutralization, a high-value military target, is a hard blow against GAORs led by former FARC member Miguel Botache alias Gentil Duarte, commander of dissident groups in that part of the country. “Cadete was second in command. That’s why this is the toughest blow against dissidents,” said Colombian Minister of Defense Guillermo Botero. “We will keep up operations, because security forces surrounded another part of the group that accompanied alias Cadete. The criminals intended to create a route to Venezuela that would give them an outlet to the Pacific Ocean to operate freely.”
Interpol had issued a Blue Notice on Cadete—meant to “locate, identify, or obtain information about a person of interest in a criminal investigation”—with an arrest warrant for criminal conspiracy and terrorism. Within FARC, he rose to commander of the Southern Bloc, the group responsible for attacks and kidnappings in many parts of the country.
“In August 1998, Cadete took part in an attack against Miraflores, Guaviare, leaving 35 military service members dead, 25 injured, and dozens of people missing,” Botero said. Three months later, in November, he coordinated an attempt to take over Mitú, where 70 police officers and 15 civilians died, while 15 police officers were kidnapped. He was known for being the right-hand man of Víctor Suárez, alias Mono Jojoy, former FARC commander who was killed in September 2010.
With these crimes under his belt, alias Rodrigo Cadete participated in the peace talks and was part of the committee that traveled to Havana during the process. After the peace agreement was signed, the former guerrilla settled in one of the camps for training and reintegration in the territories the accord defined.
Back to terrorism and narcotrafficking
“The former guerrilla decided not to abide by the agreements, and go back into hiding,” Botero said. “He joined alias Gentil Duarte, and together designed a plan to gather 8,000 criminals with clear instructions for terrorist acts, funding strategies, and illegal activities in the area,” said Army Major General Luis Fernando Herrera, commander of the Colombian Military Forces.
According to the Army General Command, FARC dissidents control the narcotrafficking business. In Guaviare, Vaupés, Vichada, and Caquetá departments, they oversee illicit crop routes, cocaine labs, and logistics to transport drugs to other countries.
Cadete was a dissident. Authorities believe that his neutralization and the possible death of his trusted confident, alias Cachorro, in the same operation will cause other members of the GAOR to reorganize the criminal structure and vie for positions. “This is why this operation is so important, because we were able to disrupt its development. We will maintain intelligence and surveillance operations to stop its growth,” Duque said.