If extradited to US, Colombian coke capo will have a lot of company

Washington (AFP) – Colombian cocaine trafficking kingpin Dairo Antonio Usuga could have a lot of familiar company if he is extradited to the United States -- many of his Gulf Clan cartel, including family members, have already made that trip.


Colombian officials announced Saturday the capture of Usuga, nicknamed "Otoniel," whose northern Colombia organization has shipped possibly more than a hundred tonnes of cocaine around the world in the past two decades.

The United States, which first indicted Otoniel 11 years ago, has a $5 million reward on his head, and is expected to seek his extradition.

That will only cap the steady stream of "Clan del Golfo" leaders and operatives who have already faced courts in the United States, after a long campaign by US and Colombian authorities to take down the murderous gang.

Usuga, 50, was first indicted in New York in 2009 when he was seen as only an aide to Daniel Rendon-Herrera, the head of a smaller cocaine operation.

Their gang, called Los Urabenos after the region they operated in near the Panama border, expanded after the United States helped Colombia take down rival traffickers, Los Rastrojos, in 2012.

By 2015, according to indictments issued in New York and Miami, Usuga had consolidated control of the dominant Colombian cartel following the 2009 capture of prior leader Rendon-Herrera.

The Gulf Clan was known as much for scores of brutal murders of rivals as for pushing tonnes of drugs out into the world markets.

In Washington, Usuga, Rendon-Herrera and their cartel had been officially named among the world's "top transnational organized crime threats," and the $5 million reward was posted for Usuga.

The indictments accused the two, as well as 15 co-defendants, of shipping some 73 tonnes of cocaine to the United States between 2003 and 2012.

And under a principle of "extraterritorial jurisdiction," they were also charged with multiple murders outside the United States of leaders and members of rival drug gangs.

Beginning of the end

Rendon-Herrera was extradited to the United States in 2018, when Otoniel was the cartel's sole boss.

But the end had begun for the Gulf Clan under Usuga. One after another in his gang, many of them family members, were arrested and extradited to the United States for trial.

In 2018, a top Gulf Clan figure, Henry de Jesus Lopez Londono, was sentenced to 31 years in a US prison.

One of Otoniel's cousins, Joaquin Guillermo David-Usuga, called a "ranking member" of the clan, was extradited to Houston, Texas in December 2019 to stand trial with two other clan operatives.

He pleaded guilty to trafficking last week and faces a minimum of 10 years and maximum life in prison.

Another cousin, Javier Dario Usuga Murillo, was captured and extradited in 2019.

Yet another cousin, Harlinson Usuga Usuga, was sentenced in September to more than 12 years in prison for his role in arranging Gulf Clan shipments to the United States.

Unclear is the fate of Otoniel's sister, Nini Johana Usuga, nicknamed La Negra, who was indicted in Miami for drug trafficking.

She was arrested in Colombia earlier this year, and local media said she, too, could be extradited to the United States.

The US Justice Department did not respond to a query on her case.