Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias ‘Pablito’

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Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo Quinchía, alias “Pablito,” is a member of the ELN’s Central Command (Comando Central – COCE). He is one of the ELN’s most belligerent commanders and is critical of peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government. He is currently the commander of the Domingo Laín Sáenz Front.

History

Pablito is a native of Sarare, born into one of the first families to colonize the region and which had longstanding relations with the ELN. He was recruited into the ranks of the group in 1982 by Jaime Quiroz in Arauquita.

The Domingo Laín Sanz Front saw an opportunity to take advantage of the oil boom in Caño Limón, Arauca. It began to gain control of the department by extorting the oil multinationals as well as carrying out extortion and kidnapping. This allowed Pablito to progressively show his capacity for leadership.

By 1989, when Jesus Emilio Jaramillo, the Bishop of Arauca, began protesting against the actions of the ELN, Pablito personally ordered and directed his murder.[1] This became a turning point for the ELN in Arauca as their new leaders, including Pablito, no longer held back in their use of violence.

In 1993, Pablito was already a leader within the Compañía Simacota. In 1995, he carried out his first international operation, leading an attack against the Carabobo military base in the Venezuelan state of Apure.

By 1998, he was commanding the Compañía Simacota, which was active around Arauquita.[2] In 2000, he became the commander of the Domingo Laín Sáenz Front of the Eastern War Front (Frente Domingo Laín Sáenz del Frente Oriental de Guerra). During his leadership, the Domingo Laín Sáenz Front grew its military strength and capabilities, and its influence in Arauca increased.

The Colombian army arrested Pablito in Bogotá in 2008, but in 2009 he escaped from prison in spectacular fashion. Since then, authorities in Colombia have put a $600,000 price on his head.

At the Fifth ELN Congress in 2015, it was announced that Pablito would join the COCE, the group’s central command. However, he rejected this appointed, showing that the Front he commands had severe reservations about positions being put forth by the COCE. Today, however, he is a full member of this rulin gbody.

Criminal Activities

Pablito is being sought by the United States on arms trafficking charges and for the kidnapping of American journalists. According to information from authorities, Pablito controls drug trafficking routes in western Colombia, as well as the profits that business generates. He is also accused of kidnapping, extortion and attacks on oil infrastructure.

The last action commanded by Pablito was the car bomb attack against the Santander General Police School in Bogotá in January 2019, which killed 21 people.

Geography

Pablito is the commander of the Eastern War Front, which operates in Arauca, Boyacá and Casanare (a region known as ABC). According to reports, the guerrilla boss moves easily between the Colombian department of Arauca and the state of Apuré in Venezuela where he is understood to have a camp, farms and a base from where to manage his drug trafficking networks.

Allies and Enemies

Pablito has full control of his area of influence. It seems that he is currently in Venezuela, which might indicate he has some support in that country.

Prospects

The incorporation of Pablito into the COCE in 2015 was seen by many analysts as a strategic decision by the ELN’s highest commanders to involve him in the peace talks with the government and secure his support.

Considering that he is the commander of the ELN’s most important war front both in financial and military terms, a distancing and opposition to the peace talks on the part of Pablito and his troops would be devastating for the negotiations.

Since the talks began, it is clear that Pablito is the commander most opposed to the peace process. He has ordered many of the attacks that the ELN has committed since talks began and there are reports indicating that he could be recruiting FARC dissidents. This suggests Pablito could be preparing for a scenario in which the ELN does not demobilize and instead takes over the criminal economies once controlled by the FARC.

[1] Confidential Source.

[2] National Attorney General’s Office. Report with information Gustavo Anibal Guarín Qunchía. December 29, 2009.

 

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