Colombia’s president hails capture of cartel boss Dairo Antonio Úsuga

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Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, has celebrated the downfall of “the astir feared cause trafficker connected Earth” aft 1 of South America’s astir wanted men was captured astatine his rainforest hideout pursuing a cinematic manhunt involving hundreds of troops arsenic good arsenic US and British quality agencies.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, the 50-year-old caput of the Clan del Golfo cause cartel, was arrested connected Saturday day aft heavy equipped operatives laid siege to the criminal’s jungle stomping crushed successful north-west Colombia.

“Identify yourself!” 1 peculiar forces service sergeant reportedly bellowed astatine the shirtless fugitive, who is known arsenic Otoniel, aft spotting him trying to fell beneath a heap of branches and scrubs.

“Cool it, soldier,” replied Úsuga, earlier confirming his name, raising his hands and asking not to beryllium killed.

By nightfall, the erstwhile leftwing guerrilla and paramilitary had been flown to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, handcuffed and stony-faced, wherever helium was paraded earlier the media wearing achromatic wellington boots.

In a triumphant televised broadcast, Duque, compared the apprehension to the 1993 slaying of Pablo Escobar successful Medellín, saying: “This is the astir terrible stroke that has been dealt to cause trafficking successful this state this century.”

Colombian authorities had been pursuing Úsuga for astir a decade, with the US authorities section offering a $5m reward for accusation starring to the seizure of a transgression it accused of controlling a immense web of cocaine laboratories and amerciable runways and speedboat jetties utilized to smuggle drugs north. A full of 132 warrants had been issued for Úsuga’s arrest.

Úsuga and soldiers
Úsuga (centre) has been described by Duque arsenic ‘the astir feared cause trafficker successful the full world’. Photograph: Colombia’s Military Forces/Reuters

But the cartel boss’s destiny was reportedly sealed aboriginal this twelvemonth erstwhile authorities decided to intensify their hunt, amid soaring levels of cocaine production.

Two weeks agone quality officers managed to place the unsmooth determination of Úsuga’s hideout successful the highly strategical Urabá portion adjacent the borderline with Panama, according to an account published by the Colombian paper El Tiempo connected Sunday. They did truthful partially acknowledgment to cartel employees who were ferrying medicine to the cause lord to dainty kidney problems.

At astir 5am connected Friday the determination was taken to motorboat Operación Osiris, a multi-pronged subject battle connected Úsuga’s agrarian domain, which information chiefs named aft the past Egyptian deity of the underworld.

Colombian media reports said the cognition progressive much than 20 helicopters, 10 unmanned surveillance drones and hundreds of troops who blocked rivers and roads to halt the people – codenamed “El Blanco” – fleeing a 3.5 sq km hunt country successful Antioquia province. As commandos swarmed toward their nonsubjective past 8 rings of security, navy vessels lurked offshore successful the Caribbean Sea to guarantee Úsuga could not flight by boat.

By Saturday day the quality mag Semana said 4 members of an elite service portion had tracked the “bloodthirsty capo” to adjacent a elemental woody farmhouse successful the Paramillo Massif upland range. It was determination that, soon earlier 3pm section time, the criminal’s nonstop hiding spot was betrayed by the dependable of rustling undergrowth.

“Don’t termination me, don’t termination me,” he pleaded, earlier asking for a sip of h2o and falling silent. “Otoniel and his empire had collapsed,” declared Semana, which claimed the gangster asked constabulary not to portion him of a medallion featuring a photograph of his parents embracing.

Colombia’s unpopular blimpish president, who took bureau successful 2018 and volition measurement down adjacent year, trumpeted the gangster’s seizure – during which 1 constabulary serviceman was killed – arsenic a landmark triumph against organised transgression successful a state that produces an estimated 70% of the world’s cocaine.

“Otoniel was the astir feared cause trafficker successful the full world,” Duque said, claiming his demise meant the Clan del Golfo was finished.

Duque thanked the US and British governments for collaborating connected intelligence, though their nonstop publication to the cognition was not clear. The British embassy successful Bogotá congratulated Colombia’s authorities and information forces, calling the apprehension “a large stroke to transgression and equipped groups”.

Experts are sceptical that Úsuga’s detention volition beryllium a gamechanger successful Colombia’s decades-long cause conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“His seizure is nary insignificant feat and not thing I privation to underplay [but] the equation of the warfare connected drugs remains unchanged,” said Sergio Guzmán, who runs the Bogotá-based consultancy Colombia Risk Analysis.

“He volition beryllium replaced by idiosyncratic else, and however that idiosyncratic approaches the warfare connected drugs we volition find retired soon. But it doesn’t correspond a seismic alteration successful however the warfare connected drugs is being waged and lost,” Guzmán added. “Whenever a mafia brag falls, respective are acceptable to instrumentality his spot – and that’s what we’re seeing with Otoniel.”

Adam Isacson, a Colombia specializer from the Washington Office connected Latin America, voiced fears for the information of the information operatives who appeared taking selfies with the transgression aft his arrest. “They took disconnected an important caput today,” Isacson tweeted. “But the hydra remains intact.”