Dairo Antonio Úsuga, 50-year-old drug trafficker known as Otoniel, leader of the Clan del Golfo or or Gulf Clanin Colombia, has been captured Saturday in the jungle, in the Uraba region, by the country’s armed forces. One police officer died during the operation. “This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century,” President Iván Duque said in a video message. Otoniel had put up a reward of $5m by the U.S. for help locating him. Otoniel and his brother, who was killed in a raid in 2012, got their start as gunmen for the now defunct leftist guerrilla group known as the Popular Liberation Army but later joined the rebels’ battlefield enemies, a rightwing paramilitary group. In 2017, he showed his face for the first time on occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to the country, in a video asking his group be allowed to lay down its weapons and demobilise as part of the country’s peace process with the much-larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, never achieved.
The Colombian president said now his government was working on extraditing Otoniel, most likely to the United States. Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), congratulated the Colombian government on Otoniel’s capture. Experts say Otoniel’s capture falls in line with a military tactic used in Latin America, known as the “kingpin strategy”, used in the killing in 1993 of Escobar, the leader of the Colombian Medellin cartel.