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Security & Strategic Review - December 2021

Otoniel’s capture unlikely to change the drug trafficking panorama

Heralded by President Iván Duque as Colombia’s “biggest strike against drug trafficking this century” and a moment that “can only be compared to the fall of Pablo Escobar,” the 23 October capture of Dairo Antonio Úsuga David (‘Otoniel’) made headlines worldwide. As the leader of the Clan del Golfo drug trafficking organisation (DTO), Otoniel was Colombia’s most-wanted criminal. He also exemplified the interplay between supposedly ideological armed groups and the cocaine trade, having previously been involved in both paramilitary and guerrilla activities. Yet despite the government’s presentation of his capture as a watershed moment, it is far from clear that the Clan del Golfo will suffer a long-term setback. Even if it does, the most likely outcome is that a rival DTO will fill the void.

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