Captures, combats, and seizures of drugs, laboratories, and weapons are some of the successes of the Colombian Military Forces against the organized armed group Clan del Golfo organized armed group. These results have been achieved within the framework of the Ayacucho Joint Strategic Plan, which addresses security problems differentially by geographic regions, according to the location of the five joint commands: Caribbean, Southwest, Southeast, East, and Northwest.
“During 2023 [as of December 2], 1,478 members of the Clan del Golfo have been affected, including captures, being brought to justice, and deaths in the course of military operations,” General Helder Fernán Giraldo Bonilla, commander general of the Colombian Military Forces, told Diálogo. “Despite the fact that we are in the midst of complying with cease-fire decrees, first and foremost is the protection of the population as a pillar of our Ayacucho Campaign Plan. We are conducting day and night defensive operations, stability operations, and operations in support of civilian authorities.”
According to figures provided to Diálogo by the Military Forces’ General Command, authorities captured 1,269 members of the Clan del Golfo, while 195 were brought to justice, five people presented themselves voluntarily, and 38 died in combat operations. The Military Forces also seized 426 small arms, 129 long arms, and 347 explosive devices.
“Not only against the Clan del Golfo, the Military Forces fight equally against any threat against the civilian population,” Gen. Giraldo said. “There are threats that persist in the national territory, but the Military Forces continue to fulfill their constitutional mission, and in the face of these threats we will act forcefully.”
Among the most recent captures is that of alias El Indio, alleged financial leader of the Pablo José Montalvo substructure of the Clan del Golfo, along with two of his men, in the general area of Bojayá, Chocó, in late November. Alias El Indio, who had an arrest warrant for aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime, is accused of extorting traders, transporters, and cattle ranchers, coordinating drug trafficking routes to transport drugs to Central and North America via the Pacific, as well as facilitating the entry of chemical precursors for cocaine processing in the municipalities of Bojayá, Riosucio, and Carmen del Darién in Chocó, the Colombian Navy said in a statement.
In another mid-November operation, authorities captured Roger Ariel Grandet Chávez, alias El Costeño, the alleged top leader of the Nicolás Antonio Urango Reyes substructure, which operates in the Bolívar department.
Alias El Costeño is accused of aggravated homicide, terrorism, manufacturing, trafficking, carrying or possession of firearms, and accessories, parts or ammunition for the restricted and private use of the Military Forces. He is also believed to have been the leader of the Manuel José Gaitán substructure in 2022 and was allegedly in charge of ordering terrorist acts as part of the “armed strike.” He is also believed to be responsible for 21 homicides, the execution of the “pistol plan” aimed at gunning down police and military personnel, and actions against security forces in Sucre, according to the Navy.
Alias Niche, leader of the armed branch of the José Gaitán substructure, who was detained on October 18 in the rural area of the municipality of San Onofre, Sucre department, was another relevant capture.
“The aforementioned subject had an arrest warrant for the alleged crimes of aggravated criminal conspiracy for homicide, trafficking, carrying and manufacturing of firearms, and trafficking and distribution of narcotics,” Colombian Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Martínez, commander of Marine Infantry Battalion No. 13, told the press. According to investigations, alias Niche was a key player in the protection of criminal group’s settlements in the Montes de María, as well as a key player in the security of the substructure’s top leader Manuel José Gaitán.
It is estimated that the Clan del Golfo currently has between 8,000 and 9,000 members and is present in 14 of the country’s 32 departments where it is mainly involved in drug trafficking, extortion, illegal mining, and migrant smuggling, regional daily El Heraldo reported.
“Drug trafficking continues to be the main fuel and source of financing for organized armed groups, followed by illegal mining, extortion, and kidnapping,” said Gen. Giraldo. “This group also murders, intimidates the population, and generates displacement, among other crimes.”
The Military Forces also dealt a blow to the finances of the Clan del Golfo with the seizure of 1,620 kilograms of coca, more than 40,200 liters of coca base in process, 4,743 kg of cocaine, 34,422 kg of coca leaves, and more than 26,000 liters of coca paste in process, among other substances. In addition, authorities destroyed 269 coca paste processing laboratories, 13 cocaine laboratories, and 83 seedbeds.