Colombian drug lord – Dairo Antonio Usuga David – pleaded guilty Wednesday before a Brooklyn courtroom for running a criminal syndicate in what is seen as victorious justice against a warlord.
He is facing a 20-year prison sentence. David’s case is proof that while justice wheels turn slowly, it prevails in the end.
Usuga led the Clan del Golfo from 2012 until his arrest by the Colombian authorities in October 2021. The international criminal organization delivers cocaine by the tons from Colombia to the U.S. through Mexico and Panama.
Usuga David entered a guilty plea before Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Dora Irizarry that covers indictments in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Florida.
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace described Usuga David as “the most violent and significant Colombian narcotics trafficker since Pablo Escobar.” This is truly a victorious justice against a criminal.
Victorious Justice vs Usuga David
He was also known as “Otoniel,” and he led a 6000-member militarised cartel that controls vast swaths of territory in Antioquia, Colombia’s Urabá region.
According to the prosecutors, his reign within the organisation was ruthless, and he treated his subordinates with complete cruelty. He has ordered the assassination of dozens of rivals, police officers, and suspected informants.
After his brother was killed in a police raid in 2012, he directed his cartel’s forces to shut down the towns under his control. All businesses were forced to close, and residents were instructed to remain in their homes for several days. Anyone who violated his curfew was executed by cartel members.
As part of his plea agreement, Usuga David agreed to turn over $216 million.
He faces a fixed minimum of 20 years behind bars. Under the terms of his extradition from Colombia, federal prosecutors have agreed not to seek a life sentence, though there’s no limit on how many years he can receive when he’s sentenced.
In an official statement, United States Attorney Peace said that “With today’s guilty plea, the bloody reign of the most violent and significant Colombian narcotics trafficker since Pablo Escobar is over. Úsuga David has now been held accountable for his leadership of the Clan del Golfo, which was responsible for trafficking tons of illegal narcotics from Colombia to the United States and incalculable acts of violence against law enforcement, military personnel, and civilians in Colombia and elsewhere.”
The guilty plea is the “result of the determined work of numerous law enforcement personnel in the United States, Colombia, and elsewhere. “It is our hope that bringing Suga David to justice will bring some relief to the victims of his drug trafficking and violence in Colombia and the United States,” the US attorney added. More on victorious justice follows.
Clan del Golfo
The Clan del Golfo, also known as Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC) and formerly called Los Urabeños and Clan Úsuga, is a prominent Colombian neo-paramilitary group and currently the country’s largest drug cartel.
Based in the Urabá region of Antioquia, the cartel is involved in the Colombian armed conflict. Their main source of income is cocaine trafficking and is positioned to be the largest distributors of cocaine in all of Colombia. In the latter part of 2021, it is considered the most powerful criminal organization in Colombia, with approximately 3,000 members in the inner circle of the organization. The Gulf Clan has recruited accomplices at the highest level of the military hierarchy, such as generals and colonels.
The “fall of Otoniel”
Otoniel spent much of his time traversing between rural safe houses in Úraba, with just four armed guards with him and never staying anywhere for more than two nights, as he feared capture if he got too close to urban areas. He reportedly had a liking for young girls, committing serial sexual abuse on minors who were trafficked to his jungle home.
However, the desolation of a life on the run led him to seek a deal with the government in 2017. He asked Pope Francis, who was visiting the country, to negotiate on his behalf. But Operation Agamemnon II was in full swing and the senior leadership within Clan del Golfo was being knocked down one by one, including Otoniel’s own family members.
In October 2021, UK and US intelligence joined their Colombian counterparts to track down the location of Otoniel in his jungle hideout using satellite imagery. More than 500 Colombian special forces and soldiers entered the jungle and surrounded the hideout, meticulously bypassing the eight rings of security and finally capturing the notorious drug lord. President Ivan Duque, with similar zeal to that of his predecessor after the capture of Daniel ‘El Loco’ Barerra, playing to the global media, announced the capture of Otoniel as only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar.