The Colombian Military Forces neutralized a National Liberation Army (ELN in Spanish) leader believed to be the right-hand man of the main commander of this guerrilla group, known as the last insurgency in the country, President Iván Duque said on July 4.
“Security forces have neutralized alias Dumar or alias Culebrito, the right-hand man of alias Pablito, an ELN military leader and commander of the Efraín Pabón front, who was also in charge of the Domingo Laín Sáenz [front],” the president said during a virtual event.
Jhon Fredy Cortés Buritica died in a military operation in Norte de Santander department, which borders Venezuela and is the epicenter of a violent war between the ELN and criminal gangs over coca leaf crops, the raw material for cocaine.
“This has been a successful operation against the mafia, against terrorism, against crime,” Duque added.
Authorities were offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to Cortés Buritica’s capture.
According to the president, Culebrito was the right-hand man of Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, also known as Pablito, a fearsome guerrilla commander who authorities and experts say is also the highest-ranking military officer in the ELN.
A member of the Central Command, the top governing arm of the Guevarista organization, Pablito is hiding in Venezuela, the Colombian military high command said.
Known as the last remaining guerrilla group following the 2016 peace agreement that disarmed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish), the ELN has 2,300 combatants and a strong support network in urban areas.
Created in 1964, the armed group operates in 10 percent of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities, independent investigations revealed.