The arrest of an Interpol agent who allegedly colluded with the Gaitanistas is fresh proof that Colombia’s principal transnational drug trafficking organization remains powerful in the face of intensifying security efforts.
Patrol Officer Walter de Jesús Ardila Orrego, who worked for the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol)’s anti-human trafficking unit in Bogotá, was arrested on May 13, according to a press release by the Attorney General’s Office. The 26-year-old is thought to have been working covertly for the Gaitanistas group, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), for four years, El Colombiano reported.
Among other things, Ardila is accused of selling information on high-ranking security force officials that the AGC planned to assassinate, especially those involved in “Operation Agamemnon,” which has targeted the criminal group and its leaders for over a year. Ardila’s capture allegedly revealed that the AGC had listed at least 12 of the operation’s top officials — including four police generals — as “military objectives,” El Tiempo reported.
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One related case implicating Ardila is the recent arrest of three people who reportedly planned to assassinate a police official and a prosecutor working on Operation Agamemnon. Ardila allegedly fed the detainees information on their whereabouts, for which he received approximately $22,000 (66 million COP).
Ardila — who has been an Interpol agent for seven years — is also suspected of leaking information on the location of the operation’s former directors, retired National Police Chief General Rodolfo Palomino and Brigadier General Luis Eduardo Martínez.
According to the investigation, in 2013 the Interpol officer sold the AGC a USB with information on a planned air raid on the camp of the organization’s then “second-in-command,” Francisco José Morelo Peñate, alias “El Negro Sarley.” The information allowed El Negro Sarley to escape, although he was killed by security forces later that year.
Ardila has been charged with criminal association, bribery and revealing secrets, although he denies the accusations.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of Ardila once again demonstrates the continuing reach and power of the AGC, fuelling doubts about the effectiveness of the government’s crackdown on organized crime.
The AGC are currently the security priority for the Colombian security forces, which have captured several top commanders since Operation Agamemnon was launched in February 2015.
SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles
Nevertheless, the operation has clearly not been able to critically weaken the group, which is still showing signs of expansion, widespread social control, and the ability to amass huge amounts of cocaine right under the nose of authorities.
As Ardila’s case proves, the efficiency of security force operations will continue to be jeopardized if criminal groups keep infiltrators within their enemies’ ranks. The AGC’s number one, Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias “Otoniel,” has been particularly adept at evading capture and given the AGC extensive corruption networks, it would not be surprising if he were also aided by crooked government and security officials.
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