Illustration Credit: Mehaniq.
Last week, Colombian kingpin Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, was extradited to the United States, where he will face drug- and arms-trafficking charges in the Southern District Court of Florida. The 50-year-old Otoniel has been involved in crime since he was an adolescent, as a member of both the left-wing Ejército Popular del Pueblo (EPL) and the right-wing Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). After the demobilization of the AUC under then-President Álvaro Uribe, the Clan del Golfo formed in 2007. Otoniel has led the paramilitary group since 2009. Under his leadership, the Clan del Golfo became one of Colombia’s most powerful criminal organizations, controlling half of the drugs that come out of the South American country. President Iván Duque, who approved the United States’ extradition request last month, described Otoniel as the most dangerous narco-trafficker in the world and compared him to Pablo Escobar.
Following Otoniel’s extradition, the Clan del Golfo—also known as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC)—retaliated by shutting down communities across Colombia’s northern departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Magdalena, Chocó, Córdoba, and Sucre. For four days, the group implemented a paro armado (armed strike), ordering civilian populations to stay home and “cease all social, economic, educational, and cultural activities.” In an effort to show the Colombian government its political and military capabilities, the Clan del Golfo intimidated civilians, left tens of thousands of people without basic supplies, blocked major roads, burned over 100 vehicles, and killed 26 people. President Duque responded by deploying nearly 2,000 additional troops and police to contain the violence and lift the roadblocks. On Tuesday, Clan del Golfo announced the end of the strike.
The same day Clan del Golfo ended their strike, Marcelo Pecci, a high-profile Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor, was killed in the coastal city of Cartagena, which has a large Clan del Golfo presence. Colombian National Police Director Jorge Luis Vargas said that early investigations suggest that a transnational criminal network is behind Pecci’s murder. According to media reports, the police are actively investigating whether the Clan del Golfo had any involvement.