Colombia’s most-wanted drug lord, Otoniel, captured by armed forces | Colombia

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Dairo Antonio Úsuga, referred to as Otoniel, Colombia’s most wanted drug trafficker and chief of the Clan del Golfo, has been captured at his jungle hideout by the nation’s armed forces.

Colombia had provided a reward of as much as 3bn pesos (about $800,000) for data regarding Otoniel’s whereabouts, whereas the United States authorities had put up a reward of $5m for assist finding him.

President Iván Duque likened the arrest Saturday of Otoniel to the seize three a long time in the past of Pablo Escobar.

“This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century,” Duque stated throughout a broadcast video message. “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”

One police officer died throughout the operation, Duque stated.

After stints as a leftwing guerrilla and later paramilitary, Otoniel, 50, rose to turn into the chief of the felony gang Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, a drug trafficking group. The gang has about 1,200 armed males – most of them former members of far-right paramilitaries – and is current in 10 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

Authorities stated intelligence supplied by the US and UK led greater than 500 troopers and members of Colombia’s particular forces to Otoniel’s jungle hideout, which was protected by an eight rings of safety.

Otoniel for years flew beneath the radar of authorities by eschewing the excessive profile of Colombia’s higher identified narcos.

He and his brother, who was killed in a raid in 2012, received their begin as gunmen for the now defunct leftist guerrilla group referred to as the Popular Liberation Army. They later switched sides and joined the rebels’ battlefield enemies, a rightwing paramilitary group.

Otoniel poses for a photo while escorted by Colombian military soldiers inside a helicopter after being captured in Turbo, Colombia.
Otoniel poses for a photograph whereas escorted by Colombian navy troopers inside a helicopter after being captured in Turbo, Colombia. Photograph: Colombian Defense Ministry/Reuters

Otoniel refused to disarm when that militia signed a peace treaty with the federal government in 2006, as a substitute delving deeper into Colombia’s felony underworld and establishing operations within the strategic Gulf of Uraba area in northern Colombia, a significant drug hall surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean sea on both aspect.

Leaks and a community of protected homes at rural homesteads allowed him for years to withstand a scorched-earth marketing campaign by the navy towards the Gulf Clan.

But the battle was taking its toll on the fugitive, who even whereas on the run insisted on sleeping on orthopedic mattresses to ease a again damage. In 2017, he confirmed his face for the primary time now and again of Pope Francis’ go to to the nation, publishing a video through which he requested for his group be allowed to put down its weapons and demobilise as a part of the nation’s peace course of with the much-larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), however the plan by no means got here to fruition.

His arrest is one thing of a lift for the conservative president Duque, whose regulation and order rhetoric has been no match for hovering manufacturing of cocaine.

Though Duque stated Otoniel’s seize represented the top of the Clan del Golfo, Colombia Risk Analysis director Sergio Guzman stated a brand new chief would absolutely be ready to take over.

“It’s a big deal because he’s the biggest drug kingpin in Colombia,” Guzman stated, including that the seize wouldn’t change the basics of drug trafficking. “Otoniel is bound to be replaced.”

Land devoted to the manufacturing of coca – the uncooked ingredient of cocaine – jumped 16% final yr to a document 245,000 hectares, a degree unseen in twenty years of US eradication efforts, in line with a White House report.

Colombian authorities launched Operation Agamemnon in 2016 as they labored to shut in on Otoniel, killing and capturing dozens of his lieutenants, going after his funds and forcing him to be always on the transfer, in line with the police.

In March, Colombian police and the US Drug Enforcement Agency captured Otoniel’s sister, Nini Johana Úsuga, who was extradited to the US to face prices related to drug trafficking and cash laundering.

As effectively as drug trafficking, Clan del Golfo is concerned with unlawful mining, authorities say, whereas the federal government accuses the group of threatening and killing neighborhood leaders throughout the nation.

He was first indicted in 2009, in Manhattan federal courtroom, on narcotics prices and for allegedly offering help to a far-right paramilitary group designated a terrorist group by the US authorities. He additionally faces felony prices in Miami, Tampa and Brooklyn federal courts.

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