In mid-October, through Operation San Jerónimo, the Colombian Navy and the National Police dismantled a narcotrafficking organization that held a monopoly on cocaine transport in La Guajira department on the border with Venezuela, the Navy said in a statement. During several raid operations carried out in the departments of Atlántico, Cundinamarca, César, La Guajira, and Magdalena, security forces captured 10 members of the so-called Valdeblanquez organization, including its leader, Reydis Rafael Valdeblanquez Morales, alias Humito.
Operation San Jerónimo was carried out following a two-year investigation, in which security forces uncovered the group’s connections to narcotrafficking organizations Los Pachenca and La Silla to export cocaine abroad. The Colombian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the Valdeblanquez ring purchased cocaine from guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) in the Catatumbo region, Norte de Santander department.
According to the Navy, from 2018 to 2020, the group smuggled about 66 tons of cocaine hydrochloride, of which 14.1 tons were seized by the naval force. “We were able to locate and identify the vessels involved in this activity, disrupting a total of 17 events,” Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Juan Ricardo Rozo Obregón, commander of the Caribbean Naval Force, said at a press conference.
The investigations established that the group was capable of shipping up to 6 tons of cocaine each month. The narcotraffickers stockpiled the drug in the northernmost part of Colombia, and then shipped it on speedboats to ports in Aruba, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, with the United States or Europe as the final destination, the Navy said.
“The drugs arrived in Puerto López in Alta Guajira, and there [traffickers] made arrangements using boats. They reached a specific place in the Atlantic Ocean, and later loaded the drugs on fishing boats,” Brigadier General Mariano de la Cruz Botero, commander of the National Police’s 8th Regional Station, told the press.
In addition to the group’s leader, authorities captured its main coordinators: Rafael Valdeblanquez Jusayu, alias El Viejo (father of the ring leader, alias Humito), and Pablo Emilio Quintero Dodino, alias Harold or Bedoya, former leader of a front of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, who was in charge of security and coordination with the ELN, the National Police reported.
Brig. Gen. Botero said that alias Humito and alias El Viejo belong to the Wayúu ethnic group, and that the ring had support from a network of Wayúu natives. According to the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, the Wayúu indigenous people are located in La Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia and in northwest Venezuela, in Zulia state.
It is the first operation against a criminal organization that involved the Wayúu indigenous people and that had a monopoly on cocaine trafficking in La Guajira, the Colombian Police said.