Police in Colombia have captured two candidates for local government positions who authorities say are members of neo-paramilitary organization the Gaitanistas, the most recent indication of the social and political ties this criminal group maintains in the country’s northwest.
Colombian authorities captured 41 alleged members of the Gaitanistas, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), in several provinces along Colombia’s Caribbean coastline as part of a police operation dubbed “Agamemnon,” reported El Tiempo. A mayoral candidate in the municipality of Tuchin, Cordoba, identified by Colombian media outlets only as “Soycer,” was among those arrested. Alias “Soycer” allegedly ran the organization’s local financial operations and may have used state resources allocated to a business he manages for criminal purposes. Police captured another political candidate in Tuchin, identified as “Amadid,” who was aspiring to become a local councilman, according to El Universal.
Authorities also arrested Edgar Durango Tordecilla, alias “el Mono,” who police identified as one of the top 10 most wanted suspects within the criminal organization. Tordecilla is a former member of paramilitary organization the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), where he served under current AGC leader Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” according to El Tiempo.
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The arrests of two political candidates in Cordoba are the latest indication of the degree to which the AGC have infiltrated local communities in some of the areas where they operate. In May, authorities arrested a bishop in the northwest region of Uraba, the AGC’s stronghold, for allegedly laundering drug proceeds on behalf of the criminal organization by disguising the illicit funds as church donations.
In spite of their status as a type of criminal organization known as BACRIM (from the Spanish for “criminal bands”), the AGC have sought to portray themselves as the “third actor” in Colombia’s armed conflict, and have previously called for inclusion in the country’s peace talks. The Colombian government has resisted labeling the AGC as political actors, but nonetheless appears to be seriously considering the possibility of a mass demobilization for the criminal group.
SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profiles
Meanwhile, security forces continue to capture large numbers of alleged AGC members even as Otoniel, Colombia’s most wanted man, remains a fugitive. In February, authorities announced a security offensive aimed at capturing Otoniel, the head of the only BACRIM that still maintains a national reach.
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