The Colombian authorities announced the capture of Otoniel, as Dairo Antonio Úsuga is known, head of one of the most violent illegal armed groups in the country.
The man captured is the head of the feared Clan del Golfo (also known as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia), a criminal group that operates mainly in the northwestern part of the country. Photo: TW-Diego_Molano
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: Colombia: ¿incrementará la violencia tras captura de “Otoniel”?
Last weekend, the Colombian Armed Forces found "Otoniel", who was the most wanted man in the country. He is the top leader of the feared Clan del Golfo (also known as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia), a criminal group that operates mainly in the northwestern part of the country and that, among various crimes, was engaged in the production and trafficking of cocaine.
Medios colombianos informan la captura de Dairo Antonio Úsuga David alias #Otoniel, jefe del Clan del Golfo. Conozca el historial criminal del narcotraficante más buscado del país: https://t.co/EQhqIVZW7j
— InSight Crime Español (@InSightCrime_es) October 23, 2021
However, what Colombian President Iván Duque called a drug trafficking coup similar to the death of Pablo Escobar, may have violent implications and almost no benefit in the fight against drug trafficking.
The benefits of catching
Otoniel's capture is not entirely negative. Obviously, it is the fall of one of the largest and most violent drug lords on the national scene. This itself represents an obvious blow to the organization chart and to the actions (at least temporarily) of the illegal group.
Now, it will be important to see what agreements the Colombian and US authorities reach with the kingpin. Next, it will be vital that both the Colombian and North American prosecutors obtain information that allows identifying routes, bank accounts, real estate to reduce the actions of the illegal group that until today commanded prison benefits in exchange.
Likewise, it will be important for you to provide information on arms purchase contacts, drug production, front men, complicit authorities, etc. Otoniel's fall could just be the beginning of a series of blows.
Nor should it be underestimated that the capture of someone who thinks he is untouchable also makes it clear that any other great capo can be captured or killed.
The negative consequences of the fall of Otoniel
As Iván Duque said, the fall of Otoniel can bring the same consequences that the death of Pablo Escobar brought: a status quo. Neither Otoniel nor Escobar were the first or the last great drug lords in Colombia. Several names have already passed and none of those blows have meant victory in the fight against the mafias.
It is also true that Otoniel is not the only blow the group has received this year. At the beginning of 2021, under the Agamemnon operation, Nelson Darío Hurtado, alias "marihuano", was discharged, the one that the authorities gave as Otoniel's right hand. In his replacement, he was alias "Chiquito Malo", who could soon take over the command of the armed group that has 1,600 members, according to official information. Another possible successor would be alias "Siopas", second in command and who has been part of the organization since 2009. Here also a possible cause of increased violence arises in the sectors where the Clan del Golfo had a greater presence: a fight for the can. With the fall of Otoniel, an internal war for his succession may break out. This could worsen the situation in the region and fragment the group.
Even more so when this group maintains a "mixed" hierarchical model. According to Insightcrime.org, the Clan del Golfo maintains a central power in the Urabá region (northwestern coast of Colombia) but also manages a structure of "franchises" under the name of "the urabeños" that have already operated semi-autonomously.
Additionally, the Clan del Golfo is not the only group in charge of cocaine production in the country. There are at least 5 other illegal groups with similar actions (although of different sizes) such as the ELN, the FARC dissidents led by Gentil Duarte, Nueva Marquetalia, Los Rastrojos, and Los Caparro, among others.
So, just as when the majority of the FARC demobilized thanks to the peace agreement signed with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, and various illegal groups took over those orphan areas, this could also happen now. If the other Illegal Armed Groups see weakness in the Gulf Clan, they will try to occupy disputed territories or under the domination of the kingpin captured this weekend. Within the 300 municipalities that Indepaz estimates that have the presence of the Clan del Golfo, there are a series of illegal economies, which represents a great source of money for these organizations. From drug trafficking, micro-trafficking, illegal mining, to human trafficking on the border with Panama.
Capture of the leader of #Colombia's largest post-paramilitary group could have big fall-out
Otoniel (mostly) unified (highly fractious) bits of the AGC. Big captures often spur fights for control. Early warning for potential humanitarian consequences.https://t.co/HJU3qM0pJx
— Elizabeth Dickinson (@dickinsonbeth) October 23, 2021
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As for cocaine production, the outlook is not encouraging either. With so many actors and if demand does not drop, the drug that the Gulf Clan stops producing will be produced by any of these already existing groups or by some that begin to commit crimes in some of the hundreds of regions forgotten by the Government.