As the head of the Clan del Golfo faced narcotrafficking charges in New York following his extradition to the United States, Colombian authorities intensified their offensive against the criminal group to weaken it and capture its leaders.
“The Clan del Golfo has been dealt the hardest blows since it emerged as a criminal group,” Colombian President Iván Duque said during a security council in Antioquia department in early May. “[Alias] Otoniel felt invincible. We captured him, and he wanted to use all his criminal power to try to evade extradition, we extradited him and now he is rotting in a hole in the United States.”
On May 7, during an interagency operation, Colombian Army troops captured the alleged regional leader of a commission of the Gonzalo Oquendo Urrego substructure of the Clan del Golfo in eastern Colombia. Cleyderman Antonio Gómez Landaeta, alias Luna or Fresa, 27, had an arrest warrant for aggravated criminal conspiracy and aggravated extortion.
According to investigative and intelligence work, alias Luna or Fresa was in charge of ordering, directing, and taking part in extortion, homicides, forced displacement, kidnappings, and intimidation of merchants, the Army said. These criminal actions were carried out in the department of Casanare.
“This bandit with an extensive murder record, who had participated in more than six homicides perpetrated in the municipality of Maní at the beginning of this year , was captured thanks to the action of troops of the Gaula, Casanare,” Colombian Army Major General Jorge Eduardo Mora López, commander of the Eighth Division, said in a press conference. “This leader was assigned to be part of the series of terrorist and vandal actions that this organized armed group has been carrying out in the country, in different departments, and he wanted to initiate these actions here in Casanare.”
Alias Luna or Fresa, a native of the Venezuelan state of Portuguesa, news site El Pitazo reported, had received orders to execute the burning of vehicles and a plan pistola (a campaign of assassination) against members of the security forces, as part of the armed strike the Clan del Golfo carried out May 5-10, in retaliation for the extradition of Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias Otoniel, the Army said.
Authorities are also investigating alias Luna or Fresa for a homicide that occurred on September 20, 2021; for the January 7, 2022 massacre — in which victims were attacked with rifles — resulting in three deaths and two seriously injured people; and also for the May 5 homicide of a man, two days before his capture. All these events occurred in the urban area of the municipality of Maní, Casanare, Maj. Gen. Mora said.
“A few days ago, we were also announcing the death of a ringleader [of the Clan del Golfo], the capture of five more bandits, and the seizure of more than 15 weapons that these bandits were carrying in the northern part of our department,” Maj. Gen. Mora said. “[…] Thanks to the effective action of Army troops, in coordination with our Police, and in coordination with our Attorney General’s Office, we were able to deal a hard blow to the Clan del Golfo […].”
So far until May 2022, in the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Vichada, and Guainía — the jurisdiction of the Army’s Eighth Division — authorities captured 13 members of the Clan del Golfo and neutralized one. Among them are alias Fresa or Luna, and Rubén Darío Parales, alias Rubén, another leader of the criminal group, the Eighth Division told Diálogo.