Colombia’s president hails seize of cartel boss Dairo Antonio Úsuga | Colombia

Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, has celebrated the downfall of “essentially the most feared drug trafficker on Earth” after one among South America’s most needed males was captured at his rainforest hideout following a cinematic manhunt involving lots of of troops in addition to US and British intelligence companies.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, the 50-year-old head of the Clan del Golfo drug cartel, was arrested on Saturday afternoon after closely armed operatives laid siege to the prison’s jungle stomping floor in north-west Colombia.

“Establish your self!” one particular forces military sergeant reportedly bellowed on the shirtless fugitive, who is called Otoniel, after recognizing him attempting to cover beneath a heap of branches and scrubs.

“Cool it, soldier,” replied Úsuga, earlier than confirming his identify, elevating his arms and asking to not be killed.

By dusk, the previous leftwing guerrilla and paramilitary had been flown to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, handcuffed and stony-faced, the place he was paraded earlier than the media sporting black wellington boots.

In a triumphant televised broadcast, Duque, in contrast the arrest to the 1993 slaying of Pablo Escobar in Medellín, saying: “That is essentially the most extreme blow that has been dealt to drug trafficking on this nation this century.”

Colombian authorities had been pursuing Úsuga for a few decade, with the US state division providing a $5m reward for data resulting in the seize of a prison it accused of controlling an enormous community of cocaine laboratories and unlawful runways and speedboat jetties used to smuggle medicine north. A complete of 132 warrants had been issued for Úsuga’s arrest.

Úsuga (centre) has been described by Duque as ‘essentially the most feared drug trafficker in all the world’. {Photograph}: Colombia’s Army Forces/Reuters

However the cartel boss’s destiny was reportedly sealed early this yr when authorities determined to accentuate their hunt, amid hovering ranges of cocaine manufacturing.

Two weeks in the past intelligence officers managed to establish the tough location of Úsuga’s hideout within the extremely strategic Urabá area close to the border with Panama, in accordance with an account printed by the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on Sunday. They did so partly because of cartel staff who have been ferrying medication to the drug lord to deal with kidney issues.

At about 5am on Friday the choice was taken to launch Operación Osiris, a multi-pronged army assault on Úsuga’s rural area, which safety chiefs named after the traditional Egyptian god of the underworld.

Colombian media stories mentioned the operation concerned greater than 20 helicopters, 10 unmanned surveillance drones and lots of of troops who blocked rivers and roads to cease the goal – codenamed “El Blanco” – fleeing a 3.5 sq km search space in Antioquia province. As commandos swarmed towards their goal previous eight rings of safety, navy vessels lurked offshore within the Caribbean Sea to make sure Úsuga couldn’t escape by boat.

By Saturday afternoon the information journal Semana mentioned 4 members of an elite military unit had tracked the “bloodthirsty capo” to close a easy wood farmhouse within the Paramillo Massif mountain vary. It was there that, shortly earlier than 3pm native time, the prison’s actual hiding place was betrayed by the sound of rustling undergrowth.

“Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,” he pleaded, earlier than asking for a sip of water and falling silent. “Otoniel and his empire had collapsed,” declared Semana, which claimed the gangster requested police to not strip him of a medallion that includes {a photograph} of his dad and mom embracing.

Colombia’s unpopular conservative president, who took workplace in 2018 and can step down subsequent yr, trumpeted the gangster’s seize – throughout which one police officer was killed – as a landmark victory towards organised crime in a rustic that produces an estimated 70% of the world’s cocaine.

“Otoniel was essentially the most feared drug trafficker in all the world,” Duque mentioned, claiming his demise meant the Clan del Golfo was completed.

Duque thanked the US and British governments for collaborating on intelligence, though their actual contribution to the operation was not clear. The British embassy in Bogotá congratulated Colombia’s authorities and safety forces, calling the arrest “a significant blow to crime and armed teams”.

Consultants are sceptical that Úsuga’s detention will show a gamechanger in Colombia’s decades-long drug battle, which has claimed tens of hundreds of lives.

“His seize isn’t any minor feat and never one thing I wish to underplay [but] the equation of the struggle on medicine stays unchanged,” mentioned Sergio Guzmán, who runs the Bogotá-based consultancy Colombia Threat Evaluation.

“He will likely be changed by another person, and the way that somebody approaches the struggle on medicine we are going to discover out quickly. Nevertheless it doesn’t symbolize a seismic change in how the struggle on medicine is being waged and misplaced,” Guzmán added. “At any time when a mafia boss falls, a number of are able to take his place – and that’s what we’re seeing with Otoniel.”

Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist from the Washington Workplace on Latin America, voiced fears for the security of the safety operatives who appeared taking selfies with the prison after his arrest. “They took off an essential head in the present day,” Isacson tweeted. “However the hydra stays intact.”

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