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Ecuador News

New Colombian president has a message for ‘Guacho’: ‘Your days are numbered’

Newly inaugurated Colombian President Iván Duque says one of his first orders of business is to restore order in southwest Colombia. To do it, he says, he must “take out” Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho”, a former FARC commander who most officials say controls much of the region.

Iván Duque

Duque’s commitment follows a meeting last week with Ecuador President Lenin Moreno, who is pressing Colombia to regain control of Nariño Department, which borders Ecuador.

“We are telling Guacho that his time is over and that we are ready to act decisively to eliminate illegal activities, including drug trafficking,” Duque said following a visit to Tumaco, a city of 200,000 just north of the Ecuadorian border. According to a February United Nations crime report, Tumaco is effectively controlled by crime organizations, the largest one headed by Guacho. The report also says that as much of 20 percent of Colombia is under the control of crime organizations.

Walter Patricio Artízala, alias El Guacho.

Duque conceded that restoring order in Tumaco and Nariño will not be easy. “We face a serious challenge with the lack of public order and we are sending a clear message to the crime leaders, such as Guacho, that the government of Colombia will commit substantial resources to their elimination and the restoration of order.”

Guacho and his organization have taken credit for the kidnapping and murder of three journalists from the Quito newspaper El Comercio earlier this year. They also say they captured and murdered an Ecuadorian couple as a protest for the arrests by the Ecuadorian government of Guacho gang members in Ecuador.