Cracking Down on Coke

Colombian forces captured drug lord Dairo Antonio Úsuga

On October 23, major drug lord Dairo Antonio Úsuga, also known as Otoniel, was captured in the Antioquia province of Colombia. Otoniel is wanted in the United States and many countries in South America. Úsuga’s capture was a joint operation between the Columbian army, police, and air force. There were a total of 500 soldiers and 22 helicopters involved, and, despite the death of one police officer, the mission was considered extremely successful. Otoniel’s location was traced by signal intelligence experts using satellite imagery and intelligence provided by the U.K. and the U.S.
Úsuga began his criminal career with a smaller left-wing guerrilla group before becoming a paramilitary fighter with groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist-Leninist rebel group, and the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia – a known drug trafficking and right-wing paramilitary group. With his background in organized crime, Otoniel began working under the druglord Rendón Herrera. After succeeding Herrera, Otoniel gained control of the Clan del Golfo cartel, which the U.S. Department of Security describes as extremely violent and heavily armed.
The Clan del Golfo cartel caused destruction and menace throughout northern Colombia, and is accused of drug and human smuggling, extortion, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of minors, recruitment of minors, and illegal gold mining. The cartel had extensive ties to Colombia’s cocaine industry, which has been thriving, with a 16 percent increase in cocaine production in the past year. Many members were formerly involved in terrorist organizations and far-right paramilitary groups. The Clan del Golfo cartel has been labeled the most powerful criminal organization in Columbia. Using violence and intimidation tactics, the cartel has obtained control over prime drug smuggling routes to Russia and the U.S.
It is likely that Otoniel will be replaced by a new drug lord from the Clan del Golfo cartel and that his capture will pose no great barrier to continued cartel activity other than violent outbreaks throughout northern Colombia in the coming weeks. However, if Dairo Antonio Úsuga cooperates with investigators, he can help take down Colombia’s most feared cartel. Iván Duque Márquez, the Columbian President, stated, “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”