Colombia to extradite drug lord ‘Otoniel’ to US – .

Colombia to extradite drug lord ‘Otoniel’ to US – .

Carepa (Colombie) (AFP)

“There is an extradition order against Otoniel, and this extradition order (…) remains in progress,” Defense Minister Diego Molano told the daily El Tiempo in an interview.

“This is the path for all those who commit transnational crimes,” Molano told reporters later, adding that nearly 30 percent of the many tonnes of cocaine exported from Colombia went through the so-called Gulf Clan, the most large gang of drug traffickers in the country, led by Otoniel.

The 50-year-old drug lord, real name Dairo Antonio Usuga, was arrested Saturday in the dense jungle of northwestern Colombia in an operation involving some 700 uniformed officers supported by 18 helicopters, according to the ‘army.

The United States had offered a bounty of $ 5 million for information leading to the arrest of Otoniel, one of Colombia’s most feared men.

“This is the hardest strike against drug trafficking in our country this century,” President Ivan Duque said on Saturday, adding that the arrest was “comparable only to the fall of Pablo Escobar,” the famous Colombian baron of drug trafficking.

“We are aiming for more, we are aiming for victory against all high-value targets,” Duque promised from a military base in the north-west of the country.

The government accuses other armed groups such as the People’s Liberation Army (EPL) and the rebels who moved away from the peace pact signed with the FARC guerrillas in 2016, of financing themselves with the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Coming from a poor family, Otoniel joined the EPL, a Marxist guerrilla group that demobilized in 1991. A paramilitary fighter, he eventually led the Gulf Clan, with a force of some 1,600 men and a presence in nearly 300 municipalities nationwide, according to independent think tank Indepaz.

In Colombia, Otoniel had 128 outstanding arrest warrants for drug trafficking and recruitment of minors, among other crimes.

“He murdered over 200 members of the security forces… Many soldiers suffered because of this murderer and his friends,” Duque said.

Otoniel also attacked minors, “intimidating families and extorting them in order to take their daughters’ virginity,” the president added.

In five decades of a US-backed war on drugs, Colombia has killed or captured several drug lords, including Baron Escobar, who was shot dead by security forces in 1993.

But the country remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with the United States being its biggest buyer.


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