EL ESPECTADOR, May 9, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Armed Stoppage that paralyzed a hundred municipalities this weekend demonstrated the power of the group that “Otoniel”, who was just extradited last week to the United States, had led. The administration says they are “holdouts” and that it will give them a “final blow”. However, the statistics from the Police warn that there are 3,800 members of this successor group of the paramilitaries.
The Armed Stoppage deployed by the Clan del Golfo this weekend was a demonstration of the dominance that this criminal organization still maintains, in spite of the capture and extradition of their maximum leader, alias Otoniel, and of the military operations that the Armed Forces have carried out against the group that’s succeeding the paramilitaries. Even though the Iván Duque administration has insisted that they are “holdouts” of the criminal group, what was experienced from last Thursday, May 5 until Sunday May 8, demonstrates that that organization is well integrated nationally, as they were able to paralyze and terrify 178 municipalities in 11 departments, according to figures from the JEP Unit for Investigation and Prosecution.
According to information from the Ombudsman’s Office and the Police, right now, the Clan del Golfo has an armed presence in the departments of Córdoba, Antioquia, and Chocó, where the three men that, according to the authorities, are Otoniel’s successors, are present: alias Chiquito Malo, Gonzalito, and Siopas. They are directly commanding the Juan de Diós Úsuga David, Gabriel Poveda Ramos, Efrén Vargas Gutiérrez, Carlos Vásquez, Pablo José Montalvo Cuitiva, and Zuley Guerra Fronts. Also in the Pacific part of Nariño Department, there is an armed component of the Clan through the Southern Cordillera, commanded until May, 2021, by alias Matamba.
Likewise, in the departments of La Guajira, Magdalena, Sucre, Norte de Santander, Meta, Valle del Cauca, Bolívar, and Atlántico, the Clan del Golfo subcontracts with criminal gangs that protect its interests in the drug traffic, illegal mining, extortion, smuggling, and other criminal revenues. The JEP prosecutors pointed out this weekend that, in the days of the Armed Stoppage, 24 people were murdered, 138 communities were confined, there were 26 roadblocks, and 118 instances in which the possessions of civilians were destroyed. For example, in La Guajira, they reported that every one of the municipalities was paralyzed that weekend.
The EL COLOMBIANO newspaper reported, for example, that in Bajo Cauca, men from the Clan del Golfo would not even permit cadavers to be moved. Besides that, it reported that the situation was also complicated in the Chocó Municipalities of Tadó and Riosucio, where the people were confined to their homes after some violent actions. In Apartadó, the heart of Urabá, and one of the municipalities where the armed group has the greatest presence, authorized sources stated that the only area that was not controlled by the Clan del Golfo was the urban center, and at the beginning of the week some businesses remained closed. “We are just waiting,” said an authority in the area, after the announcement yesterday of the end of the stoppage.
What the administration is saying
The Minister of Defense had this to say, using his most current statistics, he said that the Armed Forces, had deployed 29 platoons in the departments affected by the Armed Stoppage. There were 199 land caravans and 525 patrols coordinated between the different Armed Forces. The Police reported 92 arrests of people believed to be related to the Armed Stoppage by the Clan del Golfo, including alias Pedro, thought to be responsible for burning nine vehicles in Cesar. Yesterday, President Iván Duque even announced more captures and reinforcements, speaking from Carepa.
That municipality is another of the strongholds of the Clan del Golfo, and is one of those that suffered the most from the Armed Stoppage. From there, President Duque assured that these actions “are a desperate and cowardly attitude” toward the extradition of their leader, and that they can only be fought by capturing the top leaders of the Clan del Golfo, strengthening the operations with more soldiers, as well as with a greater crackdown on their means of financing. “They have been interested in generating anxiety in the media, trying to achieve some kind of approach, of negotiation, taking advantage of the competitive election. They will always be fought and beaten, as we have already done,” he concluded, accompanied by the military command staff and the Minister of the Interior.
The President announced that he would be enhancing the work of Operation Condor, which attempts to put an end to what the authorities have called the “holdouts” of the Clan del Golfo. According to Duque, there will be 15 prosecutors, 700 police, and 720 soldiers supporting the efforts of this strategy to try to dismantle the organization. That result is still not in view, in spite of its having been seven months since Duque promised that Otoniel’s capture marked the death of the Clan del Golfo.