Colombia’s most wanted drug lord is captured in jungle hideout
Dairo Antonio Úsuga, aka ‘Otoniel,’ was captured Saturday in the jungles of Colombia’s Uraba region
Narco kingpin Otoniel, 50, was arrested by a raiding party of more than 500 special forces troops
It is the ‘biggest blow to cocaine trafficking since fall of Escobar,’ said President Ivan Duque
Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, long on DEA most wanted list has been on the run for a decade, after his 2009 drug trafficking and terrorism indictment
Dairo ‘Otoniel’ David is the head of The Clan del Golfo [The Gulf Clan], a 1,200-strong army of armed thugs
He is accused of murdering police officers and abusing children in the course of building his ruthless drugs empire
President Duque compared his capture Pablo Escobar, Colombia’s other infamous drug lord
Notorious drug cartel boss Otoniel, has been captured by a team of soldiers in the jungle i Colombia.
Long listed as Colombia’s most wanted drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, better known by his alias Otoniel, has finally been captured by security forces after eluding authorities for more than a decade.
Otoniel, 50, is accused of sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the United States as the mastermind behind a ruthless drugs empire, killing police officers, recruiting minors, and sexually abusing children among other crimes.
The fugitive taken into custody Saturday in the Uraba region of Colombia when a military force of over 500 soldiers descended on his jungle hideout, marking the culmination of a decade-long manhunt dubbed operation ‘Osiris’.
Colombian President Ivan Duque likened the arrest of Otoniel to the capture three decades ago of Pablo Escobar, given that the drug lord managed to evade authorities and retain his freedom for over 10 years.
‘This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century,’ Duque said during a broadcast video message,’ adding, ‘This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.’
Colombia’s military presented Otoniel to the media on Saturday evening bound handcuffs and wearing rubber boots preferred by rural farmers, and he has since been transported to Bogota to await trial.
The the narco lord was first indicted in 2009 on narcotics charges and for allegedly providing assistance to a terrorist organization according to the US government, but has eluded capture ever since, amid a growing list of heinous crimes.
Úsuga after his capture on Saturday was accompanied by police escort to the plane then transported to the capital Bogota and handed over to the authorities. He is to awaiting trial.
Otoniel is the alleged head of the much-feared Gulf Clan, -The Clan del Golfo – whose army of assassins has terrorized much of northern Colombia to gain control of major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles north to Central America and onto the US.
Clan del Golfo has around 1,200 armed men – the majority former members of far-right paramilitary groups – reportedly operating active in 10 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.
Along with drug trafficking, the Gulf Clan authorities said are involved with illegal mining, maintaining their stranglehold with threats and killing community leaders across the country.
The group has also been known to treat migrants in Colombia’s countryside as goods that its members can tax and control.
Although President Duque has said Otoniel’s capture represented the end of clan, Colombia Risk Analysis director Sergio Guzman said a new leader would surely be waiting to take over.
‘It’s a big deal because he’s the biggest drug kingpin in Colombia,’ Guzman said, adding that the capture would not change the fundamentals of drug trafficking.
‘Otoniel is bound to be replaced,’ Guzman said.
Colombia’s defense minister, Diego Molano, said the group had become a threat in recent years because of the tons of cocaine it distributes within the country and ships to the United States and Europe.
The drug lord has long been on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list, with the organization offering a $5 million reward for his capture.
He was first indicted in 2009, in Manhattan federal court, on narcotics charges and for allegedly providing assistance to a far-right paramilitary group designated a terrorist organization by the US government, but has eluded capture ever since amid a growing list of heinous crimes.
Informants and a network of rural safe houses he supposedly moved among every night allowed Otoniel to escape years of pursuit by the Colombian military.
Otoniel grew in stature the longer he defied authorities. His legend as a bandit growing in leaps with the many horror stories told by Colombian authorities of the many underage women he and his cohorts are said to have sexually abused.
However, the constant battle for freedom took its toll on the middle-aged fugitive, who even while on the run insisted on sleeping on orthopedic mattresses to ease a back injury.
Authorities said intelligence provided by the US and UK led more than 500 soldiers and members of Colombia’s special forces to Úsuga’s jungle hideout, which was protected by ‘eight rings of security’.
One police officer died during what was otherwise a highly successful operation, Duque said.
His arrest is something of a boost for the conservative President, whose law-and-order rhetoric has been no match for soaring production of cocaine – Úsuga if he cooperates with investigators, could be a critical tool in helping the Colombian government unravel the inner workings of his complex criminal organization.
Land dedicated to the production of coca which is the base ingredient of cocaine, jumped 16% last year to a level unseen in two decades of US eradication efforts, according to a White House report.