Some 3,000 Colombian soldiers and police participate in the search efforts of Walther Arízala, aka Guacho, who on Saturday received two rifle bullets in the back during an operation for his capture, as confirmed by Colombian President Iván Duque and his Minister of Defense. Defense, Guillermo Botero.
Guacho, the most wanted and accused of being the mastermind of the murder of nine Ecuadorians (four soldiers and five civilians, including three journalists), is surrounded in the wooded rural area of Roberto Payán, in Tumaco, in the southwest of the Department of Nariño, border with Ecuador, where he has been the drug trafficker for the Mexican cartels, who use the Ecuadorian beaches as bridges.
In that vast area there are, according to intelligence reports, some 25,000 hectares of coca crops, laboratories and natural corridors.
Military sources said yesterday that the search focuses on an area surrounded by air, sea and land to prevent its escape. That includes surveillance of all hospitals, health posts and private doctors, as Guacho was hit by rifle bullets during the confrontation with the security forces at dawn on Saturday and it is believed that his men will try to get him somewhere to receive medical attention.
“It is difficult to escape from that lock,” said Defense Minister Guillermo Botero. The operation is similar to the one mounted last week against another dissident of the FARC guerrillas, David Segura Palacios, also from the mobile column Daniel Aldana, who was killed. Segura held a war to the death with Guacho for the control of drug trafficking routes in Nariño, where there are twelve other gangsters.
In addition to the 3,000 men who seek him alive or dead, the control extended to the border with Ecuador in fear of being moved by sea.
Although there was silence yesterday in the official sources, this newspaper knew that Ecuador reinforced the entire border line of Esmeraldas and that includes a surveillance of the welfare homes. The military, in close cooperation with Colombia, is guarding Palma Real, Mataje, Tambillo, Limones, Borbón, San Lorenzo, El Pan, Corriente Larga and other small hamlets.
The one that began on Saturday is the fifth Colombian military offensive to capture the 28-year-old man who, four times before, managed to flee the fences mounted by the Special Forces. The last escape occurred last July in the vicinity of the border with Ecuador. On that occasion, he fled without a shirt and without boots. (I)