What is the GAULA?

Wesley Tomaselli 2013

When Basque photojournalist Borja Lázaro Herrero went missing in Colombia’s Guajira province in early January, it was Colombia’s GAULA who investigated.

GAULA (Grupos de Acción Unificada por la Libertad Personal) is Colombia’s elite anti-kidnapping unit, a special division of Colombia’s military born in 1996 in response to a rising wave of kidnapping and extortion events throughout the 1980s, 90s and into the 2000s.

According to Dialogo Americas, GAULA has started training other countries in Latin America against kidnapping and extortion, especially in Central America and Mexico.

From Dialogo Americas…

GAULA officers have spent more than five years training Honduran security forces in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. GAULA officers are helping Honduras develop a professional anti-kidnapping unit and an anti-extortion team, according to Guatibonza. The Colombian military has plans to engage in anti-extortion training programs in 2014 with Guatemala and Mexico.

In early September 2013, Colombian Marines trained members of the Honduray Navy in maritime interdiction of drug traffickers. The training took place on board the ARC Caldas, a Colombian missile frigate, in Puerto Cortes on the Northwest coast of Honduras.

In addition to those training efforts, the Colombian Air Force and the Honduran Air Force have an agreement to exchange intelligence and participate in joint training programs, said Gen. René Osorio Canales, the leader of the Honduran Armed Forces. The Colombian Air Force has agreements with Mexico, Brazil Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Peru to cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking.

“We welcome the recent visit of Colombian Defense Minister Pinzón as part of his Central American tour,” Osorio said. “”The idea is that Honduras can join its friends in the region against the common enemy and we appreciate Colombia´s help in this.”

Colombia’s interest in exporting GAULA’s expertise outside of Colombia reflects the fact that the ugliness connected to illicit drug-trafficking has quieted down some in Colombia. But it’s not gone from the region.

photo credit: Vanguardia

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