Colombia: Authorities Capture Financier of ELN Terror Attack in Bogota

The attack at the General Santander police academy was the deadliest in years, leaving 22 police cadets dead.

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The trail of evidence for the deadly General Santander ELN terror attack stretches to Venezuela (Twitter).

Colombian authorities have finally captured the National Liberation Army (ELN) financier responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack in years. The incident took place in January of this year, at General Santander Police Academy. When he was captured, the man admitted the charges.

Álvaro José Mateus Vargas was arrested in the border city of Cúcuta and stands accused of having financed the execution of the car bomb that left 22 police cadets dead.

According to the investigations of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Mateus Vargas, who also engaged in the sale of dairy products, “contributed considerable sums of money for the planning and execution of the attack” inside the academy, on January 17th.

After the capture, the authorities transferred the financier of the guerrilla group before a municipal judge in Yopal, Casanare, a state located 200 miles northeast of Bogota. There, he faced charges of rebellion, concert to commit an aggravated crime, and financing of terrorism and common criminal groups.

Police director General Óscar Atehortúa alleges that Mateus Vargas is the “right hand man” of Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias “Pablito”, one of the heads of the Central Command of the ELN, and is also a key part of the ELN’s so-called “Eastern War Front.”

Authorities have been hot on the trail of “Pablito,” who is rumored to straddle the border between Colombia and Venezuela, with extensive activities in the Venezuelan southwestern border state of Apure. His stronghold is located in the vicinity of Guasdualito, Apure, where its proximity to the Apure River and major highways connecting Venezuela with neighboring Arauca state, as well as San Cristobal, Tachira to the west, make it an attractive and strategic location.

Apparently, due to the protection provided by the Nicolás Maduro regime, it has been impossible to capture him. Presented with new evidence of permanent guerrilla presence in the neighboring country, President Iván Duque affirmed that “the top ELN chiefs are in Venezuelan territory” and was emphatic in pointing out that Maduro has given them “arms, money, and support for several years.”

“I believe that this is the confirmation that, from Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro is not only encouraging the ELN to recruit children on the Venezuelan border with Colombia, but also encouraging them to engage in criminal acts,” the president said in a press conference.

The evidence and the arrest

So far, four arrest warrants have been issued in conjunction with the General Santander attack.

In mid-April, two guerrillas known as “Silvana Guerrero” and “Alirio Sepúlveda”, who are part of the ELN National Directorate in Bogotá, were captured. They were involved in coordinating the acquisition of the truck that was later loaded with explosives in a warehouse.

Mateus Vargas arranged the procurement of the truck, while a close associate Wilson Arévalo Hernández, alias “Chaco”, drove said vehicle from the state of Arauca, in northeastern Colombia, to a winery in the south of Bogotá where it was loaded with 80 kilograms of the powerful explosive pentolite.

Other individuals cited in the investigation are still at large: Ricardo Carvajal, whom the Prosecutor’s Office indicates has knowledge about the terrorist plot, José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, who was in charge of driving the truck on January 17, and Arturo Ordóñez Riveros, alias “Elephant”, who is believed to be the mastermind of the attack.

After the attack, Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martínez delivered a video showing the route of the car bomb. It was a 1993 Nissan Patrol truck. Evidence shows the truck stopped in front of the Transmilenio station “Venezia” before continuing on to the police academy to unleash Colombia’s deadliest terror attack in years.

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