Joint intelligence work led to the capture of members of the organized armed group.
In late November 2018, units of the Colombian Navy carried out a joint operation with the National Police that resulted in the capture of members of the Clan del Golfo in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Authorities carried out operations simultaneously in Mutatá municipality, Antioquia department, and in the city of Cartagena, Bolívar department.
In the early hours of November 21, units of the Military Unified Action Group for Personal Liberty (GAULA, in Spanish) of Bolívar, consisting of Colombian Navy commandos and elements of the local division of the Police’s Criminal Investigation and Interpol Directorate, captured 21 members of Clan del Golfo. Ido Enrique López Castro, alias Cabeza or El Profe, leader of Clan del Golfo’s substructure Héroes del Caribe, was among the detainees.
Authorities conducted operations under the framework of the Diamond Plan, which the Colombian government launched in August 2018. Service members spent more than a year collecting intelligence and tracking members of the criminal organization. “With the government’s strategy, we can work with more flexibility and achieve better results against different groups, such as guerrillas or criminal gangs,” Colombian Marine Corps Major Juan Carlos Morales García, Bolívar Military GAULA commander, told Diálogo.
According to the Colombian Navy, El Profe operated with the gang for about 10 years. The leader of the criminal substructure controlled drug distribution routes in Cartagena and towns of the Urabá region, Antioquia department.
The other detainees, the Navy indicated, conducted extortion and contract killings. In September 2017, they carried out several murders in the urban area of Cartagena.
“There were 21 murders, most of them shopkeepers and other people involved somehow in micro-trafficking or other illegal activities,” Maj. Morales said. “[It] interfered with the business of this criminal organization.”
The intelligence work helped identify the killings’ perpetrators and their affiliation to the Héroes del Caribe substructure. “This structure also funneled illegal weapons—small weapons, revolvers, pistols,” Maj. Morales said. “They supplied these weapons, from Venezuela, to conduct criminal activities in Cartagena’s urban center, including in the south of Bolívar.”
“It was a joint effort between the Police and the Navy,” Colombian Marine Corps Captain Jonny Alexander Martínez Martínez, head of Bolívar Military GAULA Intelligence Unit, told Diálogo. “We were able to find the gang and single it out with check points, phone tapping, technical resources, and undercover agents.”
Although El Profe was living in Cartagena, he moved to Antioquia department before his capture. “He suspected that an arrest warrant was coming sooner or later,” Maj. Morales said. “So he traveled to Urabá, thinking that he would avoid us or suddenly escape. Thanks to the Navy and Police intelligence work, we were able to keep the situation under control at all times.”
On November 19th, Bolívar Military GAULA troops were deployed to Mutatá, Antioquia. For two days, service members collected additional information, and on November 21, they captured El Profe at home.
On the same day, authorities conducted 19 raids in Cartagena. “It was a coordinated effort. If the authorities captured El Profe, they would immediately proceed to conduct raids and arrests in the city of Cartagena,” Maj. Morales said.
“They didn’t resist at the moment of the arrest; all of them were in their homes,” Capt. Martínez said. Authorities also sent notifications to nine Clan del Golfo members who extorted people from prison with calls, demanding that their victims give money to gang members.
According to the Navy, two of the 21 detainees were women who already had arrest warrants for aggravated extortion, criminal association, aggravated murder, illegal possession of weapons, and drug possession. Authorities handed over all the detainees to the Office of the Attorney General.
During the operations, authorities found fragmentation grenades and firearms, different calibers of ammunition, personal vehicles, mobile phones, and cash. The operation involved 400 Navy and Police troops who used the Navy’s helicopters, drones, and trucks.
“With these arrests, we brought justice for the death of Colombian citizens that this criminal group murdered,” Capt. Martínez concluded. “We were able to restore the people’s trust in the public force in the city of Cartagena.”