Colombia apprehends Otoniel, a drug lord and gang leader

colombia apprehends otoniel, a drug lord and gang leader
colombia apprehends otoniel, a drug lord and gang leader

Colombia’s military forces apprehended Dairo Antonio Usuga, also known as Otoniel, in the largest blow to drug trafficking in the Andean nation since Pablo Escobar’s murder, President Ivan Duque said on Saturday.

Otoniel, 50, was apprehended during Operation Osiris in the Uraba district of Colombia’s Antioquia province. He is suspected of delivering dozens of cocaine shipments to the United States, and according to Duque, he is also accused of murdering police officers, recruiting kids, and sexually assaulting children, among other offences.

Colombia had offered a reward of up to 3 billion pesos (about $800,000) for information regarding Otoniel’s whereabouts, while the United States had offered a reward of $5 million for assistance in finding him.

“This is the most significant blow against drug trafficking in our nation this century,” Duque said in a video address aired to the public. “This is only equivalent to Pablo Escobar’s collapse in the 1990s.”

According to Duque, one police officer died during the operation.

Following periods as a left-wing guerrilla and then as a paramilitary, Otoniel grew to become the commander of the drug trafficking gang the Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan.

Clan del Golfo comprises around 1,200 armed individuals, the bulk of them are former members of far-right paramilitary organisations, and is active in ten of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

Authorities claim that, in addition to drug trafficking, Clan del Golfo is engaged in illicit mining. The government also accuses the gang of intimidating and assassinating community leaders around the nation.

Though Duque declared Otoniel’s arrest to be the end of the Clan del Golfo, Colombia Risk Analysis head Sergio Guzman predicted a new leader will emerge soon.

“It’s a major matter since he’s Colombia’s top cocaine kingpin,” Guzman said, adding that his arrest will not affect the basics of drug trafficking. “Otoniel will inevitably be replaced.”

Colombian officials started Operation Agamemnon in 2016 to close in on Otoniel, murdering and apprehending hundreds of his lieutenants, pursuing his funds, and forcing him to be on the run at all times, according to the police.

A video was released in 2017 in which Otoniel declared his intention to surrender to the authorities, however the plot never materialised.

Nini Johana Usuga, Otoniel’s sister, was apprehended by Colombian police and the US Narcotics Enforcement Agency in March and extradited to the US to face drug trafficking and money laundering allegations.

According to Defense Minister Diego Molano, Operation Osiris encompassed more than 500 Colombian special forces personnel and 22 helicopters.

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