Otoniel, Columbian drug lord is trending, this is why
Dairo Antonio Úsuga, Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, also known as Otoniel, has been caught and will be extradited to the US after he was captured in a raid, Colombian authorities have announced.
Otonie was seized after a joint army, air force and police operation last Saturday.
He was the leader of the country’s largest criminal gang and has been on the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s most wanted list for years. The US government even had to place a $5m (£3.6m) bounty on his head.
He is accused of importing at least 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2014.
Otoniel was born in Antioquia in the early 1970s. He was part of several guerrilla and paramilitary groups – including the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the major Marxist-Leninist rebel group, and the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a far-right paramilitary and drug trafficking gang.
In 2005, when the AUC dissolved, he started working for the drug lord Daniel Rendón Herrera, known as Don Mario – head of the Urabeños, which later became known as the Gulf Clan.
He moved up the ranks and took charge of the group after its previous leader—his brother—was killed by police in a raid on a New Year’s Eve party almost 10 years ago.
According Colombia’s security forces the gang is the country’s most powerful criminal organisation, while authorities in the US describe it as “heavily armed [and] extremely violent.”
The gang is engaged in drug and people smuggling, illegal gold mining and extortion, and also operates in many provinces with extensive international connections. It believed that to have about 1,800 armed members, who are mainly recruited from far-right paramilitary groups.
Its members have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain. The gang controls many of the routes used to smuggle drugs from Colombia to the US, and as far away as Russia.
The Colombian government, however, believes it has decimated its numbers in recent years, forcing many leading members to hide in remote regions in the jungle.
Otoniel was reportedly captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama.
One police officer was killed in an operation that involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters.
Otoniel, now captured, had used a network of rural safe houses to move around and evade the authorities, and did not use a phone, instead relying on couriers for communication.
Colombia’s Defence minister, Diego Molano told El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the US extradition order.
Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition, according to newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.
In addition, Otoniel, who was indicted in the US in 2009, will face a number of charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers and recruiting children.