Former Colombian drug-trafficking magnate pleads guilty in US -

Former Colombian drug-trafficking magnate pleads guilty in US

Dario Antonio Usuga David, also known as ‘Otoniel’, was the leader of the Gulf Clan, one of Colombia’s largest paramilitary groups.

A former Colombian drug trafficker has admitted that he oversaw a vast network of criminal activities and cocaine trafficking, including a violent paramilitary group known as the Clan del Golfo or Gulf Clan cartel.

Dario Antonio Usuga David, better known as Otoniel, pleaded guilty Wednesday before a United States federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to charges of drug distribution and running a continuing criminal enterprise.

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“Tons of cocaine were transported with my permission or on my instructions,” he told the court.


“There was a lot of violence with guerrillas and criminal gangs,” he said, acknowledging that “in military action, killings were done”.

Otoniel was once one of the world’s most wanted drug traffickers and was arrested by Colombian authorities in October 2021 after years of evading capture. He was extradited to the US in May 2022.

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The Gulf Clan brought violence and exploitation to the regions of northern Colombia, using brute force to control major cocaine smuggling routes.

Prosecutors have charged Otoniel with smuggling “outrageous” amounts of cocaine into the US, and he could face at least 20 years in prison. As part of an extradition deal with Colombia, US prosecutors agreed that they would not seek a life sentence in his case. The date of sentencing is yet to be fixed.

The Gulf Clan, also known as the Gatanist Self-Defense Forces, have recruited thousands of recruits to clash with the Colombian authorities, paramilitary groups and rival gangs.

Otoniel acknowledged that the group imposed a “tax” on cocaine produced, stored or transported through its territory by other groups. Prosecutors allege that he ordered the killing and torture of alleged enemies.

“With today’s guilty plea, the bloody reign of the most violent and important Colombian drug trafficker since Pablo Escobar comes to an end,” Brooklyn US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Paul Nalven, Usuga’s defense attorney, said his client was “deeply remorseful” about his role in the “cycle of violence”. Nalven said Usuga only had a fourth-grade education and at the age of 16 was drawn into “guerrilla” warfare in Colombia.

Over the years, drug trafficking has contributed to a legacy of violence that has affected the lives of millions of Colombians, and authorities have used draconian measures to crack down on criminal organizations such as the Gulf Clan.

However, the militarized approach has brought mixed results and has helped fuel allegations of human rights abuses by the government.

In a report released in June detailing the country’s nearly six decades of civil strife, Colombia’s Truth Commission said government drug policies had prolonged the fight. More than 450,000 people have been killed in the conflict between government forces, paramilitary organizations, cartels and leftist rebel groups.

Under a policy called Plan Colombia, initiated in 2000, the US poured money and military aid into the country to combat leftist rebels and drug cartels.

Colombia’s government strategy changed in mid-2010, when officials signed a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest rebel group at the time.

Nevertheless, the illegal cocaine trade remains prominent in Colombia, which is the largest producer of the drug in the world. In 2022, the United Nations said that the previous year’s crop of coca, the raw material for cocaine, would cover 204,000 hectares (500,000 acres) – the largest area recorded in decades.

The Truth Commission report recommended sweeping changes to Colombia’s drug policies, and current President Gustavo Petro, a former member of an armed rebel group, has pushed for talks with armed groups since his election in June 2022. Is.

Earlier this month, Petro announced that the government would reduce its emphasis on forced coca plant eradication, a key part of its anti-drug policy for years.

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