Colombian Army kills ELN guerrilla leader Rito Ramón Barreto, also known as ‘Ranger’
By Dialogo June 25, 2014
The Colombian Army registered an important security victory by killing National Liberation Army (ELN) terrorist Rito Ramón Barreto, who was also known as “Ranger” or “Creole. ” Ranger was the second-in-command of the Jose Adonay Ardila front.
Army soldiers from the Mounted Cavalry Group Casanare Guides No. 16, assigned to the Sixteenth Brigade, killed Ranger during a fierce gun battle with the ELN in the departments of Casanare and Arauca on May 26, Gen. Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla told the press.
Ranger was in charge of the finance committee of the Jose Adonay Ardila Pinilla Front.
The killing of Ranger deals a strategic blow to the ELN, which engages in a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, and money laundering.
A big loss for ELN
The loss of a guerrilla leader as important as Ranger is a huge loss for a terrorist organization such as the ELN, which engages in various criminal activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering, according to Rosanía Nestor, director of the Center for Studies in Security, Defense and International Affairs of Colombia (CESDAI).
“Removing the Ranger represents a victory for the government because it will weaken its financial structure and its terrorist operations,” Nestor said.
The ELN is different from other terrorist groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the security analyst said.
“The ELN is a completely different terrorist organization from the FARC group in many ways; the FARC has such a large military force. Its active members are about 3,000 (terrorists) while the FARC has between 9,000 and 10,000 members.”
Ranger participated in various terrorist activities in the municipality of Tame. In addition to working as chairman of the finance committee for the Jose Adonay Ardila Pinilla Front of the ELN, Ranger also was in charge of forcibly recruiting children in the region to join the terrorist group.
Ranger was the primary suspect in the February killings of National Police officers Jose Delgado Parrado and Andres Castro Nico. They were both killed in the urban municipality of Sácama in Casanare.
Ranger was an expert in explosives and handguns, and he had taken courses in political organizing. His area of operations was the area known as Tablon de Tame and the municipalities of Sácama, and Salina in the department of Casanare.
During the military operation that resulted in Ranger’s death, troops seized an AR-15 rifle, a pistol, four grenades, a small computer, uniforms for security forces, and radio communications equipment.
Alliance between ELN and the FARC
In past years, the ELN and the FARC have fought each other in the Tame area for control of criminal operations.
“Both organizations wanted the territory to extort and kidnap people for ransom and for that reason they had several wars,” Nestor said.
In recent years, the two terrorist groups have reached peace agreements. Currently, both the ELN and the FARC operate in the Tame region.
Ranger coordinated financial transactions between the ELN and the FARC in the Casanare region.
The ELN relies heavily on kidnapping and extortion to finance its criminal operations. The ELN targets local entrepreneurs as well as multinational corporations. The terrorist group sometimes kidnaps executives of international businesses which operate in Colombia.
For example, in early 2013, ELN operatives kidnapped Gernot Wober, a Canadian mining engineer. captive for more than seven months.
ELN terrorists kidnapped Wober, vice-president of exploration for Toronto-based Braeval Mining, on Jan. 18. The terrorists kidnapped him in the department of Bolivar, about 380 miles north of Bogotá.
The ELN terrorists released Weber in August 2013.
Ranger began as terrorist fighter
Ranger started out with the ELN as a terrorist fighter. Over the years he worked his way up the ranks of the ELN.
It is unusual for a terrorist leader to be involved in fighting, as Ranger was.
“Usually the senior members of the guerrilla group may not be as close to military operations, to evade justice,” Nestor said.
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this story.