Otoniel, a Colombian drug lord extradited to the US, pleads not guilty to international human trafficking.

His trial is causing a lot of talk in Colombia and the US. Dairo Antonio Usuga David, aka Othoniel, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday to charges of international cocaine trafficking against him following his extradition to the United States, and faces life in prison if found guilty. The largest drug dealer in Colombia, aged 50, was charged, among other things, with running a criminal enterprise between June 2003 and October 2021, as well as with an international association of criminals for the production and distribution of cocaine for the purpose of illegal export to the United States.

Othoniel appeared before federal judge Vera Scanlon in handcuffs and in the orange overalls of American prisoners. The judge decided to place him on pre-trial detention, which he did not contest on Thursday, and the next hearing was scheduled for June 2. During a press conference that took place shortly before the hearing, the prosecutor referred to “one of the most dangerous and most wanted drug lords in the world”, echoing the words of Colombian President Ivan Duque, who on Wednesday compared him to Pablo Escobar, founder of the Medellin cartel shot dead by police in 1993. . Colombian authorities said the Gulf clan responded by launching an operation to kill police and military personnel.

An organization with up to 6,000 people

No casualties have been reported yet, but Othoniel’s men carried out an “armed strike” in northwestern Colombia, where the cartel has influence, until next Tuesday, according to a social media notice. In Bajo Cauca, six municipalities are on high alert due to the “obvious presence” of cartel members, according to Luis Fernando Suarez, secretary of the Colombian department’s government. In other municipalities across the country, cars were set on fire and schools were closed after shootings were fired into the air near institutions.

Arrested on October 23, 2021 in northwest Colombia during a major military operation, “Othoniel” is considered the “supreme leader” of the Persian Gulf clan, a criminal organization that, according to various sources, could number up to 6,000 people and controls part of the coastal department of Antioquia. Acting from 2012 to 2021, “he led an army of henchmen who killed, kidnapped and tortured victims, including members of Colombian law enforcement and military forces” to control the area, prosecutor Breon accused.

We have been on trial for drug trafficking since 2009.

The cartel leader has been prosecuted by a New York court for drug trafficking since 2009, and his head has been valued at $5 million by the US. On Wednesday afternoon, a convoy of five armored police cars took “Othoniel” from a prison in the capital Bogota to a military airport, where he was handed over to US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. He landed late in the evening in New York. The United States accuses Mr. Usugu and the Gulf clan of smuggling dozens of tons of cocaine onto American soil.

According to the indictment, between 2003 and 2021, “his clan attempted to export more than 90,000 kilos of cocaine to the United States,” said DEA chief Ann Milgram, or, in her words, worth $2 billion in sales. to the street. “Today, the United States is experiencing an unprecedented overdose epidemic,” with “an American dying every five minutes in our country,” she recalled, pointing her finger at international drug cartels.

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