Colombian Army and National Police Crack Down on Clan Úsuga

By Dialogo
May 14, 2015



The Colombian National Army, the National Police, and the Attorney General’s Office have established several task forces to gather intelligence and coordinate security operations against the Clan Úsuga and other criminal gangs, which are known as BACRIM.

The Army’s Unified Action Groups for Personal Freedom (GAULA, for its Spanish initials), an elite force created in 1996 aimed at stopping extortion and kidnappings, have joined with the the National Police to carry out 31 operations against the Clan Úsuga this year. As of April 21, they've have arrested 246 suspected members of the criminal organization, interdicted 358 kilograms of cocaine, destroyed 51 drug laboratories, and confiscated 28 long-range weapons and 7,200 cartridges of ammunition.

Security forces made dozens of those arrests in late April when, in a span of 36 hectic hours, they captured 72 alleged members of Clan Úsuga as part of Operation Agamemnón. The main goal of the initiative was to capture the criminal organization's leader, Darío Antonio Úsuga David, also known as "Otoniel", but he remains a fugitive.

The security actions, which took place in Chocó, Antioquia, Atlántico, Valle del Cauca, Sucre, and Córdoba – the main departments where the Clan Úsuga operates – included the arrests of six ringleaders. They also arrested a woman, Briseida Machado -- also known as “Paola” -- who's allegedly the criminal organization's pimp, accused of recruiting underage girls to serve as mistresses for Clan Úsuga's leaders.

“This blow not only disassembles this criminal gang, it also improves the living conditions and the security situation of the people in several of the country’s cities,” Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said in an April 22 press conference announcing the arrests.

Operation Agamemnón forms part of a comprehensive strategy promoted by President Juan Manuel Santos to dismantle all BACRIM. Santos has ordered the National Police to share intelligence and work together with the Army and the Attorney General’s Office in order to disrupt Clan Úsuga’s main sources of income, which include drug trafficking, extortion, illegal mining, and the procurement – often through intimidation or illegal means – of vast expanses of farmlands or commercial properties.

Corrupt officials assist Clan Úsuga


Clan Úsuga – formerly known as Los Urabeños – is divided into small groups dispersed mainly in municipalities with difficult access and a small police presence. They usually work with local look-outs ( campaneros
) who inform them of the arrival of any outsiders, with special teams of lawyers to prevent the prosecution of their members. The criminal group has about 1,500 operatives in nine departments, though most are located in Antioquia, Chocó, and Córdoba, where they are fighting for control of strategic drug trafficking routes and illegal mining hubs.

In response, the Army and the National Police have launched a strategy focusing on 50 municipalities where Clan Úsuga is active. The National Police typically dismantles small regional chapters of the organized crime group, while the Army provides support by deploying a second security ring and Special Forces for operations against major chapters.

Thanks to these efforts, President Santos announced in April that the actions of all criminal gangs have decreased by nearly half compared to last year. The government is continuing its vigilance.

Colombia and United States offer rewards


In March, the government increased the reward for any information that might lead to the capture of Otoniel to nearly $600,000. The United States’ Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs offers an additional $5 million reward for the gang leader.

In April, President Santos announced an even more intense strategy that would allocate additional law enforcement resources to 10 municipalities in six of Colombia's departments. On April 23, he ordered a new wave of operations against all criminal gangs; and a few days later, the Attorney General’s Office seized 48 properties, eight vehicles, and 11 bank accounts connected to Clan Úsuga, collectively worth about $44 million. In early May, security forces captured eight more alleged members of the gang in Antioquia. Among those arrested was Franklin Euclides Mosquera Perea, who is known as “Nene;” he is allegedly a high-profile drug trafficker who headed Clan Úsuga's operations in northwestern Antioquia.

“These organizations’ only option is to submit to justice or else their members will end up in jail or in a coffin,” President Santos said the day after he announced the new security operations.




The Colombian National Army, the National Police, and the Attorney General’s Office have established several task forces to gather intelligence and coordinate security operations against the Clan Úsuga and other criminal gangs, which are known as BACRIM.

The Army’s Unified Action Groups for Personal Freedom (GAULA, for its Spanish initials), an elite force created in 1996 aimed at stopping extortion and kidnappings, have joined with the the National Police to carry out 31 operations against the Clan Úsuga this year. As of April 21, they've have arrested 246 suspected members of the criminal organization, interdicted 358 kilograms of cocaine, destroyed 51 drug laboratories, and confiscated 28 long-range weapons and 7,200 cartridges of ammunition.

Security forces made dozens of those arrests in late April when, in a span of 36 hectic hours, they captured 72 alleged members of Clan Úsuga as part of Operation Agamemnón. The main goal of the initiative was to capture the criminal organization's leader, Darío Antonio Úsuga David, also known as "Otoniel", but he remains a fugitive.

The security actions, which took place in Chocó, Antioquia, Atlántico, Valle del Cauca, Sucre, and Córdoba – the main departments where the Clan Úsuga operates – included the arrests of six ringleaders. They also arrested a woman, Briseida Machado -- also known as “Paola” -- who's allegedly the criminal organization's pimp, accused of recruiting underage girls to serve as mistresses for Clan Úsuga's leaders.

“This blow not only disassembles this criminal gang, it also improves the living conditions and the security situation of the people in several of the country’s cities,” Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said in an April 22 press conference announcing the arrests.

Operation Agamemnón forms part of a comprehensive strategy promoted by President Juan Manuel Santos to dismantle all BACRIM. Santos has ordered the National Police to share intelligence and work together with the Army and the Attorney General’s Office in order to disrupt Clan Úsuga’s main sources of income, which include drug trafficking, extortion, illegal mining, and the procurement – often through intimidation or illegal means – of vast expanses of farmlands or commercial properties.

Corrupt officials assist Clan Úsuga


Clan Úsuga – formerly known as Los Urabeños – is divided into small groups dispersed mainly in municipalities with difficult access and a small police presence. They usually work with local look-outs ( campaneros
) who inform them of the arrival of any outsiders, with special teams of lawyers to prevent the prosecution of their members. The criminal group has about 1,500 operatives in nine departments, though most are located in Antioquia, Chocó, and Córdoba, where they are fighting for control of strategic drug trafficking routes and illegal mining hubs.

In response, the Army and the National Police have launched a strategy focusing on 50 municipalities where Clan Úsuga is active. The National Police typically dismantles small regional chapters of the organized crime group, while the Army provides support by deploying a second security ring and Special Forces for operations against major chapters.

Thanks to these efforts, President Santos announced in April that the actions of all criminal gangs have decreased by nearly half compared to last year. The government is continuing its vigilance.

Colombia and United States offer rewards


In March, the government increased the reward for any information that might lead to the capture of Otoniel to nearly $600,000. The United States’ Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs offers an additional $5 million reward for the gang leader.

In April, President Santos announced an even more intense strategy that would allocate additional law enforcement resources to 10 municipalities in six of Colombia's departments. On April 23, he ordered a new wave of operations against all criminal gangs; and a few days later, the Attorney General’s Office seized 48 properties, eight vehicles, and 11 bank accounts connected to Clan Úsuga, collectively worth about $44 million. In early May, security forces captured eight more alleged members of the gang in Antioquia. Among those arrested was Franklin Euclides Mosquera Perea, who is known as “Nene;” he is allegedly a high-profile drug trafficker who headed Clan Úsuga's operations in northwestern Antioquia.

“These organizations’ only option is to submit to justice or else their members will end up in jail or in a coffin,” President Santos said the day after he announced the new security operations.


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