Colombian President welcomes capture of cartel boss Dairo Antonio Úsuga

Colombian President welcomes capture of cartel boss Dairo Antonio Úsuga

Colombian President Iván Duque celebrated the fall of “the planet’s most feared drug trafficker” after one of South America’s most wanted men was captured from his hiding place in the rainforest in the following a massive manhunt involving hundreds of soldiers as well as American and British intelligence agencies. .

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, the 50-year-old leader of the Clan del Golfo drug cartel, was arrested on Saturday afternoon after heavily armed operatives besieged the criminal’s jungle in northwest Colombia.

“Identify yourself! An army special forces sergeant reportedly yelled at the shirtless fugitive known as Otoniel after seeing him trying to hide under a pile of branches and brush.

“That’s cool, soldier,” suga replied, before confirming his name, raising his hands and asking not to be killed.

At nightfall, the former leftist guerrilla and paramilitary were airlifted to the Colombian capital, Bogotá, handcuffed and with a stone face, where he was. parade in front of the media wearing black wellington boots.

In a triumphant TV showDuque compared the arrest to the murder of Pablo Escobar in Medellín in 1993, saying: “It is the most severe blow that has been dealt to drug trafficking in this country in this century.

Colombian authorities had been pursuing Úsuga for about a decade, with the US State Department offering a $ 5 million reward for information leading to the capture of a criminal he accused of controlling a vast network of cocaine and drug labs. illegal tracks and jetties of speedboats used for drug trafficking. North. A total of 132 arrest warrants have been issued against Úsuga.

Úsuga (center) has been described by Duque as “the most feared drug dealer in the whole world”. Photograph: Colombian military forces / Reuters

The fate of the cartel boss was reportedly sealed earlier this year when authorities decided to step up their hunt, as cocaine production skyrocketed.

Two weeks ago, intelligence agents managed to identify the approximate location of Úsuga’s hideout in the highly strategic Urabá region near the border with Panama, according to an account published by the Colombian newspaper on Sunday. El Tiempo. They did this in part thanks to cartel workers who carried drugs to the drug lord to treat kidney problems.

At around 5 a.m. on Friday, the decision was made to launch Operation Osiris, a multi-front military assault on the rural domain of Úsuga, which security chiefs named after the ancient Egyptian god of hell.

Colombian media said the operation involved more than 20 helicopters, 10 unmanned surveillance drones and hundreds of soldiers who blocked rivers and roads to stop the target – codenamed “El Blanco” – fleeing an area of research of 3.5 km ² in the province of Antioquia. As the commandos made their way to their objective beyond eight safety rings, naval ships hid off the Caribbean Sea to ensure suga could not escape by boat.

On Saturday afternoon, news magazine Semana said four members of an elite army unit tracked the ‘bloodthirsty capo’ to near a simple wooden farm in the mountain range. of the Paramillo massif. It was there that, shortly before 3 p.m. local time, the criminal’s exact hiding place was betrayed by the rustling of the brush.

“Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,” he pleaded, before asking for a sip of water and shutting up. “Otoniel and his empire had collapsed,” said Semana, who claimed the gangster asked the police not to strip him of a locket with a photo of his parents kissing.

Colombia’s unpopular conservative president, who took office in 2018 and will step down next year, trumpeted the gangster’s capture – in which a policeman was killed – as a historic victory against organized crime in a country that produces about 70% of the world’s cocaine.

“Otoniel was the world’s most feared drug dealer,” Duque said, saying his disappearance meant the end of the del Golfo clan.

Duque thanked the US and UK governments for their intelligence collaboration, though their exact contribution to the operation is unclear. The British Embassy in Bogotá commended the Colombian government and security forces, call the arrest “a blow to crime and armed groups”.

Experts are skeptical that Úsuga’s detention will be a game-changer in Colombia’s decades-long drug conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“His capture is not a minor achievement and not something I want to minimize [but] the war on drugs equation remains unchanged, ”said Sergio Guzmán, who heads the Bogotá-based consultancy firm Colombia Risk Analysis.

“He will be replaced by someone else, and we’ll find out soon how that person approaches the war on drugs.” But this does not represent a radical change in the way the war on drugs is waged and lost, ”added Guzmán. “Whenever a mob boss falls, several are ready to take his place – and that’s what we see with Otoniel. “

Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist from the Washington office for Latin America, expressed fears for the safety of security guards who appeared to be taking selfies with the criminal after his arrest. “They removed an important head today”, Isacson tweeted. “But the hydra remains intact. “


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