The Colombian Navy and Air Force, with support from the Army and the National Police, captured 19 Clan del Golfo’s members in several operations. Authorities made the arrests between July 1st and the first week of August as part of the Sparta military and police campaign along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Detainees included ringleaders alias Bruno, alias Buda or Escalante, alias Chucha Redonda, and alias Richo.
“We proceeded with the Army and the National Police,” Colombian Marine Corps Colonel Rafael Olaya Quintero, commander of the First Marine Corps Brigade, told Diálogo. “We count on the valuable support of the Office of the Attorney General [of Colombia] to determine the legal status of detainees based on their records.”
Clan del Golfo consists of groups and subgroups that perpetrate crimes such as narcotrafficking, extortion, illegal mining, forced displacement, and murder. The arrests affect the subgroups Diomedes Dionisio Ortega Ramos, responsible for contract killings in the department of Magdalena, and Luis Fernando Gutiérrez, which carries out extortion in the Bolívar department. Both subgroups belong to the Erlin Pino Duarte group.
Two fewer ringleaders
On August 1st, alias Richo was captured. “We did it with [an arrest] warrant for conspiracy to commit extortion and kidnapping,” said Colombian Marine Corps Captain John Alexander Martínez, head of Bolívar’s military Intelligence Unit of Unified Action Group for Personal Liberty (GAULA, in Spanish). “Alias Richo was the head of finances for the Luis Fernando Gutiérrez subgroup,” he told Diálogo.
On the same day, authorities captured alias Chucha Redonda, who was part of the Fernando Gutiérrez subgroup and performed contract killings in the municipality of Arjona, César department. “At this time, [the clan] has no way to organize itself,” Col. Olaya said. “In the coming days, we’ll achieve more results to dismantle that part of Clan del Golfo once and for all.”
Alias Bruno, or Estiven, was captured on July 5th, in Tisquisio municipality, Bolívar department. Bolívar’s military GAULA troops, with the support of the Colombian Navy’s Caribbean Naval Command and the National Police, carried out the operation.
Authorities infiltrated alias Bruno’s security and learned his routine, moves, and mode of communication with Clan del Golfo’s top leader, alias Otoniel, to catch him by surprise. “He came out with his security detail, and when they saw the troops, gunshots were exchanged [with service members],” Capt. Martínez said.
The suspects were injured. Alias Bruno escaped by horse and hid in a house. Troops intercepted him with a helicopter and an assault team and took him to a hospital.
The three injured men were stabilized at Caucasia Hospital in Antioquia, where they were brought to the 151st Prosecutor's Office against Organized Crime of Barranquilla. Alias Bruno’s criminal record goes back more than 15 years. He was also the head of the Erlin Pino Duarte group.
Alias Bruno oversaw narcotrafficking, extortion, illegal mining, selective murder, and armed operations against public forces. In 2017, he led a violent uprising in which two National Police patrols and a speedboat were set on fire in the municipality of San Martín de Loba, Bolívar. According to the Navy, several members of the police were hurt.
The Colombian Army’s Fourth Mechanized Infantry Battalion, in coordination with the Navy and the National Police GAULA, conducted several simultaneous operations, resulting in the capture of alias Buda and 13 other members of Clan del Golfo. Service members captured the suspects in the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Magdalena, and Sucre.
“Alias Buda, or Escalante, was a leader who extorted shopkeepers,” Col. Olaya said. “With this arrest, Clan del Golfo, which operated in the area, lost $1.6 million a month.”
Detainees are charged with criminal conspiracy and aggravated extortion. They concentrated operations in the municipalities of Magangué, El Carmen de Bolívar, San Jacinto del Cauca, Santa Rosa del Sur, and Montecristo, in the Bolívar department, the Navy said.
“In the month [of August 2018], the goal is to dismantle Clan del Golfo completely in the south of Bolívar,” Capt. Martínez said. “There’s only 20 percent of the group left.”
“Clan del Golfo and its structures are on their way out; we’re closing in on them,” Col. Olaya said. “In short, all there’s left for them to do is surrender to justice.”