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US Judge Sentences Otoniel to 45 Years in Prison

A US judge sentenced former paramilitary warlord “Otoniel” to 45 years in prison for his years-long involvement in exporting cocaine from Colombia.

The former commander of paramilitary group AGC, whose real name is Dario Antonio Usuga, had plead guilty to the charges related to drug trafficking in January already.

Otoniel was the AGC’s top commander between 2011 and his arrest in October 2021.

At the hearing, Otoniel apologized “to the governments of the United States and of Colombia, and to the victims of the crimes I have committed.”

These victims opposed the extradition of the former AGC chief to the US, claiming that sending war criminals abroad “would be an impunity mechanism and would not protect armed conflict victims’ right to the truth.”

In his guilty plea, Otoniel acknowledged that “there was a lot of violence with the guerrillas and the criminal gangs,” and that “in military work, homicides were committed.”

What will happen to the families who became victims of the paramilitary violence ordered by the former AGC commander is uncertain.

The US Embassy in Bogota said in 2021 that “the extradition of Otoniel would contribute to truth and justice in both countries.”

The 56-year-old Otoniel stopped cooperating with Colombia’s war crimes tribunal JEP when he was put on a plane to New York however.

The former AGC chief was involved in the armed conflict since 1986, when he joined the now-defunct EPL guerrilla group.

Following the EPL’s demobilization, the army helped Otoniel and other former EPL members to join paramilitary organization AUC, the predecessor of the AGC, in 1996.

Since then, Otoniel took part in the AUC’s bloody territorial expansion and reign of terror in multiple parts of Colombia between 1997 and the paramilitaries partial demobilization between 2003 and 2006.

The AUC and the AGC were largely financed by the private sector and the paramilitaries’ involvement in drug trafficking.

The JEP ordered more than 50 investigations into politicians and businessmen for their alleged ties to the AGC because of Otoniel’s temporary cooperation.

Source : colombiareports