Authorities have captured six alleged members of Colombian criminal group the Gaitanistas -- however, none of them are reportedly Colombian nationals, raising questions about the group's international reach and where their base of operations may move to in the future.
With support from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Colombia's investigative police, known as the DIJIN, arrested eight alleged members of the Gaitanistas criminal network, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), six of who were non-Colombian nationals, in multiple raids, reported El Espectador.
Among those taken into custody were a Panamanian, a Dominican, two Nicaraguans, two Ecuadorians, and two Colombians. According to EFE, the two Ecuadorians were arrested in Guapi -- a town in the department of Cauca -- while the other six were arrested in Panama City.
The alleged leader of the network -- accused of smuggling drugs from Colombia’s coasts into Panama -- was a 45-year-old Panamanian known by the alias "David."
Authorities also confiscated three separate drug shipments that added up to 1.4 tons of cocaine, reportedly destined to the United States and Europe.
InSight Crime Analysis
What's particularly notable about these captures is the diversity of nationalities among those detained. The AGC have previously shown some international reach in Spain, and one of their top leaders was arrested while hiding out in Argentina. And while the group is reportedly expanding, they are not known for recruiting their core members from other countries in the Caribbean or Central America.
Nevertheless, as InSight Crime suggested last year, the dilution of the AGC's core leadership -- as key leaders continue to be captured or killed -- could cause their base of operations to shift away from their traditional stomping ground, a region in northwest Colombia known as Uraba. .
SEE ALSO: The Victory of the Urabeños
Such a process may be expedited by the Colombian government’s recent and intensified efforts to dismantle the group in Uraba and capture its leader, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel.”
Indeed, Otoniel’s demise appears imminent. If he is killed or captured, it is possible that the resulting fallout will cause the AGC network to move abroad, especially if the group’s core membership becomes more international.
The variety in size of the seized cocaine shipments is also worth noting -- ranging from just under 400 kilograms to just over 600, this provides further indication that the days of multi-ton drug shipments may be disappearing, with Colombian traffickers preferring to bet on smaller, less risky drug shipments.