Colombian Delegation Visits U.S. Prison to Interview Ex-Paramilitary Leader Otoniel

Otoniel, former leader of Clan del Golfo, confesses to crimes including "false positive" killings and links between criminal groups, politicians, and the military in Colombia, shedding light on human rights violations.

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Colombian Delegation Visits U.S. Prison to Interview Ex-Paramilitary Leader Otoniel

Colombian Delegation Visits U.S. Prison to Interview Ex-Paramilitary Leader Otoniel

On April 9, 2024, a delegation from Colombia's Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) traveled to the high-security ADX Florence prison in Colorado, United States, to collect testimony from Dairo Antonio Úsuga, also known as "Otoniel." The former leader of the Clan del Golfo criminal group provided information regarding false positives, the extermination of Unión Patriótica members, and crimes committed in the Urabá region.

During the three-day visit, which lasted until April 11, Otoniel confirmed his previous testimony given to the JEP in 2022. He admitted to having constant links with members of the public force, civilians, and national and regional politicians while part of various armed groups, including the Popular Liberation Army, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, and the Clan del Golfo.

Otoniel also accepted responsibility for coordinated operations carried out with the Colombian National Army to kill, disappear, and present people as combat casualties, particularly in the department of Meta. He provided comprehensive information about these "false positive" killings and confirmed his direct participation in the homicide, forced disappearance, and displacement of members of the Unión Patriótica political party.

Why this matters: Otoniel's testimony sheds light on the complex web of connections between criminal groups, politicians, and members of the Colombian armed forces. The information he provides could potentially help the JEP uncover the truth behind numerous human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice.

In addition to his confessions, Otoniel alleged that Julio Enrique Acosta, the former governor of Arauca, was connected to paramilitary groups in the region and had entered into a criminal agreement to expel guerrillas from the area. However, Acosta's defense team has denied these accusations, stating that they are unfounded and a repetition of statements made by other criminals.

Otoniel has expressed his intention to become a witness in macro case 08, which is investigating crimes committed by State agents in collaboration with self-defense groups, implicating senior Army officers. The JEP is now analyzing the information shared by Otoniel to determine how to proceed with the investigations of the cases presented. The case highlights the complexities of seeking justice and reconciliation in Colombia, where individuals like Otoniel wield influence and manipulate the system for their own gain.

Key Takeaways

  • Otoniel, former Clan del Golfo leader, testified to JEP about crimes, links to officials.
  • Otoniel admitted to "false positive" killings, targeting Unión Patriótica members, and more.
  • Otoniel alleged former Arauca governor Acosta's ties to paramilitaries, but Acosta denies claims.
  • Otoniel aims to testify in macro case 08, investigating state-paramilitary collaboration.
  • Otoniel's testimony highlights complexities in Colombia's justice and reconciliation efforts.