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Former Colombian drug-trafficking magnate pleads guilty in US | Crime News


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

A former Colombian drug lord has admitted to overseeing a vast network of criminal activities and cocaine smuggling, including a violent paramilitary group known as the Clan del Golfo or the Gulf Clan.

Dairo Antonio Usuga Davidknown as Otoniel, pleaded guilty to distributing drugs and operating an ongoing criminal enterprise before US federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday.

“Tons of cocaine were moved with my permission or at my direction,” he told the court.

“There is a lot of violence going on with guerrillas and criminal gangs,” he added, acknowledging that “in military work, murders happen.”

Otoniel was once one of the world’s most wanted drug dealers and was arrested by Colombian authorities in 2014. October 2021 after evading capture for years. He was extradited to the US in May 2022.

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

The prosecutor has Defendant Otoniel smuggled a “massive” amount of cocaine into the US, and he faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Be part of a extradition agreement with Colombia, US prosecutors have agreed that they will not seek a life sentence in his case. The sentencing date has yet to be decided.

The Gulf clan, also known as the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces, has recruited thousands of recruits to clash with the Colombian government, paramilitary groups and rival gangs.

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

“With today’s plea, the bloody reign of the most important and violent Colombian drug dealer since Pablo Escobar has come to an end,” U.S. Attorney Brooklyn Breon Peace said in a statement.

Usuga’s defense attorney, Paul Nalven, said his client “deeply regrets” his role in the “cycle of violence”. Nalven said that Usuga only finished 4th grade and was embroiled in a “guerrilla” war in Colombia when he was 16 years old.

For many years, drug trafficking has contributed legacy of violence affected the lives of millions of Colombians and the authorities used harsh measures to hunt down criminal organizations such as the Gulf Clan.

However, the militarized approach has yielded mixed results and helped fuel accusations of human rights violations by the government.

In a report published in June detailing the country’s nearly six-decade-long civil conflict, Colombian Truth Commission said the government’s drug policies had prolonged the war. More than 450,000 people have been killed in the conflict between government forces, paramilitary organizations, gangs and leftist rebel groups.

Under a policy called Plan Colombia, introduced in 2000, the United States poured money and military support into the country to fight leftist rebels and drug cartels.

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

However, the illegal cocaine trade remains prominent in Colombia, the world’s largest drug producer. In 2022, the United Nations says the previous year’s harvest of coca, the raw material for cocaine production, covered 204,000 hectares (500,000 acres) — largest area recorded for many decades.

The Truth Commission report recommended sweeping changes to Colombia’s drug policy and incumbent President Gustavo Petro, a former member of an armed rebel group, pushed for negotiations with the armed groups since then. his election in June 2022.

Earlier this month, Petro announced that the government would reduce its emphasis on mandatory coca tree removal, a staple of its anti-drug policy for many years.

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