EL ESPECTADOR, February 15, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Retired General Leoardo Barrero may be part of one of the groups in the service of the criminal organization. The General is known as alias El Padrino, and is alleged to be participating in Nariño, where two other soldiers have been arrested for those activities.
In an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, revealed by BLU Radio, there is evidence that would show that Retired Colombian Army General Leonardo Alfonso Barrero, is the same person known as alias El Padrino, one of the military men who, allegedly, make up the organization “La Cordillera”, one of the tentacles of the Clan del Golfo armed group. Some soldiers arrested weeks ago may also be part of this group, namely, Retired Colonel Harry Leonardo Gómez Tabares, the former Commander of the Boyacá Battalion, and Retired Colonel Robinson González del Río.
According to the investigation revealed by the station, Barrero has been part of “La Cordillera” since at least 2019, mainly affecting areas of the country like Leiva, Policarpa, Cumbitara, and Rosario (Nariño Department). Likewise, the evidence shows that the principal leader of the organization is Juan Larinson Castro, Alias Matamba, who was captured in 2021.
One of the documents obtained by the prosecutors, says BLU Radio, states that “we were able to establish that there was a group of people at first dedicated to purchase or acquisition of all of the cocaine base produced in the municipalities of Policarpa, Cumbitara, Leiva, and El Rosario (Nariño). The organization, according to the investigators, was called the “Cordillera Sur del Clan del Golfo (formerly known as Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colomia Bloc South Pacific Front ‘Heroes of the Cordillera’ or ‘Southern Cordillera’)”.
The way the group operates, according to the investigation, is that in the places we mentioned in Nariño, Alias Matamba “is the only one that can authorize the “tables” where the drug traffickers can buy the cocaine base; after that they finish preparing the cocaine in clandestine laboratories located in the rural part of the above-mentioned municipalities, and transport the substance to the coast areas in Nariño, and then to the outside world.”
As Blu Radio published, to achieve its objectives, “La Cordillera” had recruited active and retired members of the Army to strengthen their monopoly of criminal activity in the territory. The investigation reveals that in less than six months, Matamba, with the help of the soldiers, was able to expel the other armed groups and control the plantings, laboratories, and routes for commercializing the drugs in the area.
The millions of pesos in fees charged by the members of the military
The radio station reports that the earnings that the group gains by trafficking drugs were used to pay exorbitant payrolls, nearly 400 million pesos (roughly USD $101,600) to maintain their members, including the soldiers. The prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office found that the soldiers that work for the organization receive five million pesos (roughly USD $1,300) per month for their services, and the high-ranking officers, like Retired General Barrero, earned thirty million pesos (roughly USD $7,700) per month.
Part of that money has also been used to pay for faked Army operations against Matamba, such as attacks on Alias Sábalo, a rival of the leader of La Cordillera. BLU Radio is sure that the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office has also found that the recently captured Retired Colonel Robinson Javier González del Río and Retired General Leonardo Barrero have been the ones in charge of thwarting activities against the armed group in the area.
The report by the radio station discloses that those two soldiers furnished Matamba with “information about operations against them, location of troops in the area, and technical intelligence reports, besides coordinating the purchase of cocaine base in large quantities in the ‘tables’ (places used for the purchase of coca base) from Alias Matamba, which was part of the drug trafficking organization located in the city of Medellin”. In the same way, the investigation by the prosecutors found that Barrero “was doing the buying and sending of the product on behalf of the criminal organization, from Bogotá to Pasto (military pants, pixelated diving suits, pixelated kettles, distinctive patches for the AGC ‘Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia’) some of which were for the private use of the Armed Forces.”
The audio tapes that accuse the military
According to the radio station, the name of Retired General Barrero appears at least 74 times in the prosecutors’ investigative file, and among the most powerful pieces of evidence are some intercepted conversations by Retired General González Del Río with Matamba. They were talking about passing information against Alias Sábalo to the interior of the Army so that it would advance operatives against him and so monopolize drug trafficking in Nariño. According to the investigation Barrero is known inside the organization as El Padrino.
Furthermore, the audios show the participation by somebody known as General Chawez, who was the Chief of Joint Operations for the Armed Forces, General Wilson Nevhid Chawez Mahecha. According to the prosecutors, at that stage of the events, this last soldier was in the Joint Command No. 2 Southwest, in charge of directing joint operations in Valle del Cauca, Cauca, and Nariño.
Developing story . . .