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Colombia: capture of “Otoniel”, the country’s biggest drug trafficker

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The operation, in which one police officer was killed, involved some 500 security forces, supported by 22 helicopters.

Ivan Duque, the country’s president, immediately congratulated himself on “the hardest blow that has been dealt to drug trafficking in this century” in Colombia, “only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar”. The Colombian government announced on Saturday 23 October the arrest of Dairo Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel”, the country’s most wanted drug trafficker, for whom the United States had offered a 5 million dollar reward.

Images released by the Colombian government showed “Otoniel”, dressed in black, handcuffed and surrounded by armed Colombian military. The drug trafficker was captured in Necocli, in the northwest of the country, near the border with Panama.

It was “the most important jungle penetration ever seen in the military history of our country”, according to Ivan Duque. The operation, during which a policeman was killed, mobilised some 500 members of the security forces, supported by 22 helicopters, he said.

Otoniel’, the top leader of the Clan del Golfo, to Bogotá after his capture.

Indicted by the US justice system in 2009

The 50-year-old drug trafficker was the head of the Clan del Golfo, made up of former members of paramilitary groups who waged a fierce battle against left-wing guerrillas until the 2010s. His arrest is the biggest blow to organised crime in Colombia, which remains the world’s biggest producer of cocaine, of which the US is the biggest consumer. “Otoniel” had been charged by the US justice system in 2009, and was the subject of extradition proceedings in the Southern District of New York.

“Otoniel”, who “moved with eight security circles” around him, according to the authorities, had become the leader of the Clan del Golfo after the death of his brother Juan de Dios, alias “Giovanni”, in clashes with police in 2012. He had taken up arms at the age of 18 as a guerrilla in the People’s Liberation Army (EPL), a Marxist militia demobilised in 1991. After laying down his arms, he returned to fight in the far-right paramilitary groups.

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