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Accused Colombian drug trafficker Otoniel to appear in U.S. court


The accused leader of Colombia’s Clan del Golfo drug trafficking group is expected to appear in a U.S. court on Thursday after being extradited on cocaine and weapons charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn said.

Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, was captured by Colombian armed forces last October in the biggest blow to drug trafficking in the Andean country since the death of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993. Otoniel, 50, was extradited to the United States on Wednesday evening.

Colombian authorities have said Otoniel trafficked between 180 and 200 tons of cocaine a year with the Clan del Golfo and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of members of the South American country’s security forces.

Otoniel faces three criminal charges in the United States including conspiring to manufacture and distribute cocaine. He is expected to be read the charges at an arraignment in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

A lawyer for Otoniel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Daniel Rendon Herrera, an Otoniel associate known as Don Mario, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court last November to charges of shipping cocaine to U.S. territory and buying weapons for paramilitary figures he commanded. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Colombian President Ivan Duque on Wednesday said Otoniel’s extradition “shows nobody is above the Colombian state.” Extradition to the United States, Bogota’s top ally, is one of the main weapons in Colombia’s arsenal for fighting drug trafficking.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

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