Crime & Justice

Colombian cartel declares 4-day travel ban over leader’s extradition to US

Bogota, May 5 (EFE).- Colombia’s main criminal organization, the Clan del Golfo (Gulf Clan), on Thursday began a four-day “armed strike” in several provinces in protest over the extradition to the United States of its top leader, Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias Otoniel, while police and the military are implementing a special security plan.

In pamphlets disseminated throughout different parts of the country, the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), as the cartel controlling cocaine routes into Mexico and the US is also known, announced that the move will last for four days and that anyone “not abiding by the order” will be “killed.”

During past so-called “armed strikes,” criminal groups have restricted the movement of vehicles and travelers along roadways, threatening to attack anyone they find there, even if they are traveling in caravans with army escorts.

The first violent acts after the blockade was declared came in the provinces of Cesar and Sucre, where cartel gunmen burned buses, although the greatest area of tension is in Antioquia, where Otoniel holds the most sway and has acted in large measure with impunity.

A handcuffed Otoniel was delivered by Colombian police on Wednesday to the Catam military base, adjacent to the El Dorado international airport, and turned over to US and Interpol agents who took custody of him on board a US aircraft after which he was flown to the US.

Given the Clan del Golfo announcement, the Colombian military and the National Police have implemented a “special security protocol” along the main roadways in the provinces of Antioquia, Cordoba and Bolivar, as well as in both urban areas and the rural portions of cities there.

The authorities’ aim is to “maintain the mobility and safety of those who are moving through these areas” in the face of the Clan del Golfo’s threats, the army said.

“The territorial commanders with authority in the jurisdiction have already deployed to the sites where new incidents have occurred with the aim of personally directing operations,” Colombian authorities said.

Colombian intelligence authorities are working to anticipate any potential actions that could be staged in the areas where the Clan del Golfo operates, the report added.

The head of the Clan del Golfo was captured on Oct. 23, 2021, in a police/military operation in the area of Uraba, in Antioquia province, and since then he has been held in a cell at the Colombian police’s Criminal and Interpol Investigation Directorate (Dijin) in Bogota.

Otoniel’s transfer from the Dijin headquarters to the Catam military base seemed almost like something out of a movie, with a caravan of armored vehicles flanked by dozens of police on motorcycles.

When he was removed from one of the armored vehicles on the airport tarmac, Otoniel was observed wearing handcuffs and chained at the ankles and wrists, with a bulletproof jacket and helmet and guarded by dozens of security agents.

At the time of his arrest, Otoniel, 50, had 128 separate arrest warrants outstanding in Colombia for the crimes of drug trafficking, extortion, murder, forced displacement, weapons trafficking, forming armed groups, conspiracy to commit crimes and crimes against humanity, among others.

Otoniel’s extradition to the US to stand trial was approved by presidential decree after the Colombian State Council denied an appeal by several victims of his alleged crimes who wished to see him tried in Colombia.

The US State Department says that the Clan del Golfo consists of former members of terrorist organizations and “uses violence and intimidation to control the narcotics trafficking routes, cocaine processing laboratories, speedboat departure points, and clandestine landing strips.”

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