Dario Antonio Úsuga David, known as “Otoniel,” the former leader of the Colombian paramilitary group Clan del Golfo who was extradited to the United States, should be sentenced to 45 years in prison for the severity of his crimes, according to a formal request from the New York district attorney’s office.
“A sentence of 45 years or 540 months imprisonment is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to achieve the sentencing objectives,” the authority said in in a letter to Judge Dora Irizarry that was revealed by El Tiempo newspaper last week. Otoniel, continued the district attorney’s office, was the leader “of a powerful and violent terrorist, paramilitary, and drug trafficking organization based in Colombia that engaged in countless acts of violence, responsible for the extensive distribution of cocaine shipments into the United States.”
Otoniel, who was one of the most violent actors in Colombia’s armed conflict, would receive the highest sentence imposed on a Colombian drug trafficker if these sentencing recommendations are followed by the court. Sentencing in the United States by Judge Dora Irizarry is scheduled for August 8.
According to the request made by Otoniel’s lawyer to submit himself to the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace), a body born out of the Havana Agreement to help facilitate the nation’s 2016 peace agreement, he has been directly involved in the internal armed conflict since 1986.
He joined the FARC’s V front as a militia member before serving as a guerrilla in the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) from 1988 to 1991. He later became a member of the dissidents of the EPL “Bernardo Franco” from 1992 to 1995. This followed immediately after the demobilization of the EPL Dissidents “Bernardo Franco, “which was concerted, planned, and executed by the Fourth Brigade of the army in complicity with the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Córdoba y Urabá (ACCU),” according to the document.
The operation involved the military commanders of the IV Brigade ordering Lieutenant Colonel Jesús María Clavijo to receive the dissident guerrillas in the Granadino battalion, recruit them for the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and organize the device to transport them in army trucks and helicopters to the “Cedro cocido” farm owned by Fidel Castaño in a rural area of Montería (Córdoba). Otoniel became a paramilitary commander of the Centauros block of the AUC and other paramilitary structures from 1995 until August 15, 2006, when he demobilized during the negotiation process between the government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez and the AUC, within the framework of Law 782 of 2002.
However, he was later excluded by the Superior Court of Bogotá, Justice, and Peace Chamber and is currently under investigation with an arrest warrant for the crimes of aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime, trafficking and carrying of narcotics, aggravated homicide, and other crimes.
In a five-hour testimony, the paramilitary leader mentioned former presidential candidate Luis Pérez; Liberal Party Senator Miguel Ángel Pinto; former Congress members Milton Rodríguez Sarmiento, Jorge Camilo Abril Tarache, and Carlos Cárdenas Ortiz; former Justice Minister Sabas Pretelt de la Vega; former DAS director Jorge Noguera; deputy director of DAS, Orlando Rivas Tovar; and former governors of Casanare William Hernán Peláez, Miguel Ángel Pérez Suárez, and Óscar Raúl Iván Flórez.
This article was written by Santiago Ramírez Baquero.