The “most violent and significant” Colombian drug trafficker since Pablo Escobar has been sentenced to 45 years in prison in a Brooklyn court. Dairo Antonio Úsuga David – known as Otoniel – pleaded guilty to running the Clan de Golfo (Gulf Clan) cartel and its extensive criminal network which shifted vast amounts of cocaine into the US. A Colombian military operation led to his capture in 2021 after decades on the run. He also faces over 100 charges in Colombia at the end of his US sentence, a condition of his extradition. The big picture: Otoniel’s and the Clan de Golfo’s rise to power stemmed from the fall of Escobar and subsequent peace deals between the Colombian government and key guerilla organisations. The gaps they left have been filled by fragmented criminal gangs, making coca prices unstable. That instability together with over-production of cocaine across South America (and US demand shifting to fentanyl, according to Colombia’s president) has crashed coca prices despite sustained international demand. The result: the quarter of a million Colombians who rely on coca for income face a choice between limited government handouts and other illicit trades to survive.
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