Colombia hails arrest of alleged drug kingpin - RTHK
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Colombia hails arrest of alleged drug kingpin

2021-10-24 HKT 08:56
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  • In a photo released by the Colombian presidential press office,  Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, is pictured with members of the team that captured him. Photo: AP
    In a photo released by the Colombian presidential press office, Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, is pictured with members of the team that captured him. Photo: AP
Colombia's armed forces have captured Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, in the biggest blow to drug trafficking in the Andean country since the death of Pablo Escobar, President Ivan Duque said on Saturday.

Otoniel, 50, was captured during operation Osiris in a rural area of Colombia's Uraba region, located in Antioquia province. He is accused of sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the United States, and Duque said he is also accused of killing police officers, recruiting minors, and sexually abusing children among other crimes.

Colombia had offered a reward of up to US$800,000 for information concerning Otoniel's whereabouts, while the US government had put up a reward of US$5 million for help locating him.

"This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century," Duque said during a broadcast video message. "This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s."

One police officer died during the operation, Duque said.

Otoniel rose to become the alleged leader of the drug trafficking group the Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, following stints as a left-wing guerrilla and later as a paramilitary.

Clan del Golfo has around 1,200 armed men – the majority former members of far-right paramilitary groups – and is present in 10 of Colombia's 32 provinces.

As well as drug trafficking, Clan del Golfo is involved with illegal mining, authorities say. The government also accuses the group of threatening and killing community leaders across the country.

Though Duque said Otoniel's capture represented the end of the Clan del Golfo, Colombia Risk Analysis director Sergio Guzman said a new leader would surely be waiting to take over.

"It's a big deal because he's the biggest drug kingpin in Colombia," Guzman said, adding that the capture would not change the fundamentals of drug trafficking. "Otoniel is bound to be replaced." (Reuters)