Colombian authorities on Wednesday announced the capture of the second-in-command for neo-paramilitary group Urabeños in the northeastern region of Colombia.
Volmar Hernando Claro Torres, alias “El Mico” (The Monkey), was captured along with 17 other alleged members of the Urabeños in the rural municipality of Cucuta in the northeastern state of Norte de Santander, which sits on the border with Venezuela and is part of a major drug-trafficking route.
The capture was part of a joint operation carried out by the national police and the Investigative Body of the Prosecutor General’s Office (CTI).
Caracol radio reports that the gang members were taking part in a meeting convened by the Urabeños commander in the region, Carlos Andres Palencia, alias “Visaje.”
On September 3 a previous attempt to capture Visaje in the same area of Norte de Santander ended in a firefight that left six Urabeños fighters and one police captain dead.
Visaje, who escaped from custody in 2010, has overseen the Urabeños fight for control of the drug routes along the Colombia-Venezuela border with rival group Rastrojos, who have seen their influence across the country diminish after the capture of their founder “Diego Rastrojo” in June 2012, followed quickly by the arrest of his successors, the Serna brothers.
The Urabeños are estimated to possess more than 2300 fighters, more than Colombia’s second-largest rebel group ELN. They are thought to be expanding their operations into Venezuela.
The Prosecutor General’s Office stated that the 18 Urabeños members captured in Norte de Santander will be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, aggravated murder, and extortion.
Cucuta, Norte de Santander
- Capturados 18 presuntos integrantes de Los Urabeños (Prosecutor General’s Office)
- Golpe a Los Urabeños en Norte de Santander (Caracol Radio)