The Colombian Army dismantled two narco laboratories on the Pacific coast of Colombia during an operation carried out in mid-October. One of the labs was among the largest found in 2022, the institution said. Army troops belonging to the Command Against Drug Trafficking and Transnational Threats (CONAT) led the operation, with the support of the Colombian Air Force and the Attorney General’s Office.
“Thanks to the operational deployment of the National Army […] we were able to locate and destroy in the municipality of Cumbitara, Nariño, a mega lab to process cocaine hydrochloride that belongs to the residual organized armed group (GAO-r) Franco Benavides Structure,” Colombian Army Colonel José Aristides Carreño Sua, commander of the 23rd Brigade told the press. “More than 4.5 tons of this narcotic, close to 1 ton of coca base paste, more than 600 kilograms of solid chemical precursors, and 13,000 gallons [49,210 liters] of liquid chemical precursors were seized at this location.”
Following an aerial assault maneuver, troops infiltrated the location to reach the cocaine processing laboratories, which they then dismantled. According to authorities, this operation dealt a blow to the finances of this dissident group of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia of more than $521,000, illegal money with which they could purchase weapons to attack the Armed Forces and the population, the Army said in a statement.
According to different intelligence agencies, the Franco Benavides Structure is under the leadership of alias Marlon and his second in command alias Don Mata, CONAT said. The criminal group has some 210 men in arms who operate in the Nariño department and the southwest region of the Cauca department, CONAT added.
“[Members of] this armed group wear civilian clothes to go unnoticed among the population. There are generations of families that have integrated these GAO-r and this has made it so that the culture of illegality is rooted in part of the population, and also that operations must be executed in the shortest possible time to prevent the people of the area from hindering their execution,” CONAT said.
According to Army data presented to Diálogo, from January to November 8, 2022, authorities have affected the activities of the Franco Benavides Structure with the capture of two of its members, and the seizure of 12,000 kg of cocaine hydrochloride and 800 kg of coca base paste belonging to the group. In addition, authorities destroyed more than half a dozen of its narco labs, and seized 102,206 liters of liquid chemical precursors, 4,000 kg of solid chemical precursors, and 15,142 liters of gasoline.