Colombia captures one of the world’s most-wanted drug kingpins

Colombia has captured its most notorious drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Usuga or Otoniel, according to the attorney general’s office. Otoniel is the founding leader of the Rastrojos drug cartel that once ran North America’s…

Colombia captures one of the world's most-wanted drug kingpins

Colombia has captured its most notorious drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Usuga or Otoniel, according to the attorney general’s office.

Otoniel is the founding leader of the Rastrojos drug cartel that once ran North America’s cocaine trade. He would have turned 54 on Tuesday.

The underworld criminal was arrested as he entered a motel in the southern port city of Buenaventura, where agents had been expecting him.

He will be one of the most high-profile drug-barons captured since paramilitary forces demobilised in 2006 and gave up the trade in the hemisphere’s biggest cocaine market.

“We have captured him. He is heading to the team,” Colombian police chief General Oscar Naranjo said after the arrest.

“We have been able to get him thanks to a different type of intelligence, given the low security surrounding his organisation.”

At the height of its violence, the Rastrojos rivalled the Medellín-based Cali cartel for criminal power. Its former leader Javier Calle Serna, extradited to the US in 2013, once described the group as Colombia’s “most powerful organised crime group”.

His arrest offered “an opportunity to reconstruct the Rastrojos, a possibility that we do not lose because we were able to take him,” Naranjo said.

Homicides in Colombia have fallen sharply during the past three years amid a peace process with Marxist rebels.

The Rastrojos were decimated in 2013 by a failed bid to capture Calle, allegedly backed by the country’s most-wanted trafficker, ex-paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso.

Mancuso was captured this year in his home country, Mexico, where he was awaiting extradition to Colombia.

The scope of his empire was such that the DEA has estimated that he controlled at least 70% of cocaine shipments entering the US.

The son of a former congressman, Otoniel assumed leadership of the Rastrojos after several of its members were killed or captured. His rivalry with Mancuso was fuelled by family and other personal ties.

A former officer in the state police in his 20s, Otoniel was an experienced shot-caller for a drug cartel. He is survived by a wife and four children.

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