Colombia’s most powerful drug lord, Urabeños leader “Otoniel,” is seeking to surrender to authorities, one year after security forces began an intense search for the country’s most wanted criminal, local media reported on Monday.
According to Blu Radio, Otoniel has been in touch with a number of lawyers who would mediate his surrender to prosecution authorities, who accuse him from a wide range of crimes allegedly committed in the neo-paramilitary leader’s decades-long clandestine career.
Otoniel, whose real name is Dario Antonio Usuga, is suffering health issues, anonymous prosecution investigators reportedly told the radio station.
The investigators said that messengers are leaving and entering the northwestern region of Uraba to secure a safe communication between Otoniel and his defense attorneys.
According to the anonymous sources, the Urabeños boss is trying to be recognized as a political organization rather than a drug trafficking organization, which would allow him to take part in existing demobilization programs for guerrillas and paramilitaries.
While the Urabeños are the country’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, the group is the successor of the AUC, a paramilitary group that partly demobilized between 2003 and 2006.
However, while some AUC members demobilized, others continued the groups’ criminal and political activity, but under names such as the Urabeños and ERPAC.
Since then, these neo-paramilitary groups have replaced their predecessor as Colombia’s main human rights violator.
The government has long denied that groups like the Urabeños are a mutation of the AUC that had a clear political agenda while financing itself with all kinds of criminal activity including drug trafficking, extortion and cattle theft.
Instead, the government claims that the groups are criminal in nature and do not have the political and military ties enjoyed by the AUC.
However, there exists consensus among the majority of conflict experts that the Urabeños are the continuation of the AUC. This has been confirmed by demobilized paramilitaries and arrested neo-paramilitary leaders.