Colombia’s most wanted drug lord caught in jungle raid – .

Colombia’s most wanted drug lord caught in jungle raid – .

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – Colombian security forces have captured the country’s most wanted drug trafficker, a rural warlord who escaped a ten-year manhunt by bribing state officials and s ‘combining the fighters of the left and the right.

President Ivan Duque compared the Saturday arrest of Dairo Antonio Usuga to the capture three decades ago of Pablo Escobar.

Images circulating on social networks show Usuga in handcuffs, her face planted on the ground.

Usuga, better known by his alias Otoniel, is the alleged leader of the much feared Gulf Clan, whose army of assassins terrorized much of northern Colombia to take control of the main cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles in northern Central America and the United States.

He has long been on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Most Wanted Fugitives list, for whose capture it offered a reward of US $ 5 million. He was first indicted in 2009 in Manhattan federal court for drug trafficking and allegedly providing assistance to a far-right paramilitary group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government.

But like many of his gunmen, he also ran through the ranks of several guerrilla groups, most recently claiming to lead the Colombian Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces, after a left-wing Colombian brand in the mid-20th century.

He also faces criminal charges in federal courts in Miami, Tampa and Brooklyn.

Authorities said intelligence provided by the United States and the United Kingdom led more than 500 Colombian soldiers and special forces to the Usuga jungle hideout, which was protected by eight security rings.

For years, Usuga has gone under the radar of the authorities avoiding the high profile of the most notorious Colombian narcos.

He and his brother, who were killed in a raid in 2012, made their debut as armed men for the now defunct left-wing guerrilla group known as the People’s Liberation Army, then changed sides and joined the enemies of the rebel battlefield, a right-wing group. paramilitary group.

He refused to disarm when this militia signed a peace treaty with the government in 2006, instead delving deeper into the criminal world of Colombia and setting up operations in the strategic Gulf of Uraba region. in northern Colombia, a major drug corridor surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. sea ​​on either side.

Leaks and a network of shelters on rural farms enabled him for years to resist a scorched earth campaign led by the military against the Gulf clan.

But the war took its toll on the 50-year-old fugitive, who, even on the run, insisted on sleeping on orthopedic mattresses to relieve a back injury. In 2017, he showed his face for the first time on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to the country, posting a video in which he demanded that his group be allowed to lay down their arms and demobilize in the country. part of the country’s peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, much larger.

His arrest is a bit of a boost for the conservative Duque, whose public order rhetoric has failed to match the skyrocketing cocaine production.

Land dedicated to the production of coca – the raw ingredient in cocaine – jumped 16% last year to a record 245,000 hectares, a level never seen in two decades of state eradication efforts United, according to a White House report.

Joshua Goodman reported from Miami


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