The Colombian public force continues to deliver important results in the fight against narcotrafficking, affecting the finances of criminal gangs. Among the various successes of security forces are operations targeting members of organized armed groups (GAO, in Spanish) and their facilities.
For example, on June 19, close to the border with Venezuela, in the municipalities of Tibú and Convención, Norte de Santander department, troops of the Army’s 1st Operational Energy Command found three illegal refineries to process stolen crude oil, the Army reported in a statement. The structures allegedly belong to the Juan Fernando Porras Martínez and Camilo Torres Restrepo fronts of the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), the Army said.
“Inside them [the refineries], we found 20,000 gallons [75,708 liters] of stolen crude, 400,000 gallons [1.5 million liters] of pategrillo-type gasoline [low-quality fuel], two distillers, four pools, two motor pumps, and 200 meters of galvanized pipe,” Colombian Army Colonel Wilfredo Gómez Sepúlveda, commander of the 1st Operational Energy Command, told Diálogo. “With this operational result, the 1st Operational Energy Command affects the financial system of the ELN by about $75,260, resulting from the illegal commercialization of fuel used in the drug trafficking chain.”
“So far this year , units of the 1st Operational Energy Command have dismantled 22 of these illegal refineries,” Col. Sepúlveda added.
In mid-June, the Army also dismantled 16 narco-labs in two operations conducted in Chocó department, in the Colombian Pacific, the institution reported in a press release.
In the first operation, troops of the Army’s 7th Division found 15 laboratories in the San José del Palmar sector and seized 216 liters of coca base paste, 9,709 liters of liquid and 930 kilograms of solid chemical substances, and 155 kg of macerated coca leaves, among other elements. The labs allegedly belonged to the ELN’s Omar Gómez Silgado Western War Front, the Army said.
In parallel, in a rural area of Carmen del Darién municipality, the Army reported locating a cocaine processing lab housing 2,593 liters of liquid and 130 kg of solid chemical susbtances. The facilities are believed to belong to the Clan del Golfo’s subgroup, Pablo José Montalvo Cuitiva, the Army said.
So far in 2020, the Army’s 7th Division, with jurisdiction in Antioquia, Chocó, and Córdoba, says to have destroyed 169 coca base paste labs and 60 seedbeds. In addition, they have seized 24,883 kg of coca leaf and eradicated 1,914 hectares of crops, among other results.
For its part, the Army’s 3rd Division seized 445 kg of cocaine hydrochloride in Yotoco municipality, Valle del Cauca department, on June 18, the Army reported in a statement. The security forces found the shipment inside a suspicious vehicle, during a checkpoint inspection. The drug, bound for Central America, was worth $10 million, the Army said.
On the same day, troops of the Army’s 2nd Rapid Deployment Force, assigned to Joint Task Force Hercules, detained two individuals, alleged members of the residual GAO Los Contadores, the institution said in a press release. The individuals carried 150 kg of cocaine base paste in an ambulance on a road in Barbacoas municipality, Nariño department.
On June 17, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime presented another important achievement of Colombian security forces in its Survey of Territories Affected by Illicit Crops, which reported a 9 percent reduction of the coca crop area in Colombia in 2019. Coca crops decreased from 169,000 hectares in 2018 to 154,000 in 2019, the report indicated.
According to data the Colombian Ministry of Defense provided Diálogo on June 23, coca seizures in the country have been rising from 2019 to 2020. From January 1 to May 31, 2020, cocaine seizures increased by 14 percent compared to the same period in 2019, going from 167.6 to 190.4 metric tons. Coca base paste seizures increased from 28.2 to 29.9 metric tons, while coca leaf seizures went from 216.8 to 281.8 metric tons, the Ministry said.