BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian safety forces have captured the nation’s most needed drug trafficker, a rural warlord who stayed on the run for greater than a decade by corrupting state officers and aligning himself with combatants on the left and proper.
President Iván Duque likened the arrest Saturday of Dairo Antonio Úsuga to the seize three a long time in the past of Pablo Escobar.
Colombia’s navy offered Úsuga to the media in handcuffs and carrying rubber boots most well-liked by rural farmers.
Úsuga, higher identified by his alias Otoniel, is the alleged head of the much-feared Gulf Clan, whose military of assassins has terrorized a lot of northern Colombia to achieve management of main cocaine smuggling routes via thick jungles north to Central America and onto the U.S.
He’s lengthy been a fixture on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted fugitives checklist, for whose seize it had been providing a $5 million reward. He was first indicted in 2009, in Manhattan federal court docket, on narcotics prices and for allegedly offering help to a far-right paramilitary group designated a terrorist group by the U.S. authorities. Later indictments in Brooklyn and Miami federal courts accused him of importing into the U.S. at the very least 73 metric tons of cocaine between 2003 and 2014 via nations together with Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Honduras.
However like lots of his gunmen, he’s additionally cycled via the ranks of a number of guerrilla teams, most lately claiming to guide the Gaitanist Self Protection Forces of Colombia, after a mid-Twentieth century Colombian leftist firebrand.
Authorities mentioned intelligence supplied by the U.S. and U.Ok. led greater than 500 troopers and members of Colombia’s particular forces to Úsuga’s jungle hideout, which was protected by an eight rings of safety.
Úsuga 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, acquired their begin as gunmen for the now-defunct leftist guerrilla group often known as the Widespread Liberation Military after which later switched sides and joined the rebels’ battlefield enemies, a right-wing paramilitary group.
He 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 organising 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 rural secure homes he supposedly moved amongst each night time allowed him for years to withstand a scorched-earth marketing campaign by the navy in opposition to the Gulf Clan. As he defied authorities, his legend as a bandit grew alongside the horror tales advised by Colombian authorities of the numerous underage ladies he and his cohorts allegedly abused sexually.
However the battle was taking its toll on the 50-year-old fugitive, who even whereas on the run insisted on sleeping on orthopedic mattresses to ease a again harm. In 2017, he confirmed his face for the primary time occasionally of Pope Francis’ go to to the nation, publishing a video during which he requested for his group be allowed to put down its weapons and demobilize as a part of the nation’s peace course of with the much-larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
His arrest is one thing of a lift for the conservative Duque, who legislation and order rhetoric has been no match for hovering manufacturing of cocaine.
Land devoted to the manufacturing of coca — the uncooked ingredient of cocaine — jumped 16% final 12 months to a file 245,000 hectares, a degree unseen in twenty years of U.S. eradication efforts, in keeping with a White Home report.