A former agent of the Gaula is being investigated in connection with the death of paramilitary leader Vicente Castaño. The Gaula is a special anti-kidnapping and extortion unit created as part of Medellin’s military police in 1996.
The disappearance and murder of paramilitary boss Castaño occurred in March 2007, although his body was never found.
The information was brought to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s attention by former paramilitary officer and deputy to Castaño Bryon Jimenez while negotiating with U.S. authorities. According to Jimenez, Don Berna, H.H., and other paramilitary bosses backed the murder of the leader of the Castaño Gil dynasty.
One man close to the suspect and also involved in the crime went to the DEA to offer 16 photographs in exchange for protection for himself and his family.
The photographs handed over to both Colombian and U.S. officials incriminate Carlos Alberto Zapata Herrera, known as Camilo or Carracas. Zapata is an expert shooter and was a member of the Gaula for over 17 years. He was also one of the collaborators in the Office of Envigado paramilitary crackdown.
Along with Zapata, two other Gaula officers, one of whom is dead, are also connected with the murder.
Zapata was one of the higher officials in Gaula who received monthly payments to protect Castaño and was at his side for at least six months, testified Jimenez.
The evidence indicates that Zapata and his two accomplices entered the farm where Castaño was hiding out with a camera to register their work. So they wouldn’t betray him later, Zapata attempted to kill his two partners. He killed one of them, but the other managed to escape with the photos. Jimenez says the photos show Zapata chopping up Castaño with a machete.
Corruption in the Gaula
This is not the first time that an officer has given the special anti-kidnapping task force a bad name. Before being captured, drug trafficker Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias Don Mario, denounced the Gaula for having ties with the mafia, leading to the removal of eight officials.
Gaula police say they are conducting disciplinary investigations on members who they suspect have been involved in corrupt acts. When these acts first started to be noticed, the unit started a purge to oust corrupt officials and today the Gaula claims that it “is a unit that operates without signs of infiltrations.”
According to the Gaula, Zapata was one of the eight men let go following Don Mario’s accusations.