Police in Colombia have captured the romantic partner of Gaitanistas boss Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel," signaling authorities may be closing in on the head of the country's principal criminal organization and its most wanted man.
Blanca Senobia Madrid Benjumea, alias "La Flaca," who police identified as Otoniel's wife, was arrested on February 4 along with 12 other Gaitanistas members, reported El Tiempo. Otoniel's former brother-in-law -- who was allegedly in charge of negotiating cocaine shipments with Mexican drug traffickers -- Otoniel's nephew, and three lawyers were among those captured.
The arrests, which were carried out in simultaneous operations in three different municipalities, enabled authorities to unearth some of the Gaitanistas, also known as the Gulf Clan, Urabeños, and Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC), financial secrets, including the way in which the criminal group distributes drug trafficking profits, reported El Espectador.
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In spite of being Colombia's most wanted man and a US target, Otoniel has managed to elude capture even as authorities have arrested other high level AGC operatives. Colombian security forces have so far managed to detain or kill several members of Otoniel's family, including Otoniel's brother Juan de Dios, who was killed in a police raid in 2012, and one of Otoniel's sisters, who was captured in December 2013. Police also arrested Arley Usuga Torres, alias "Cero Siete," another family member and the group's alleged chief financial operative, in 2013. In December of last year, El Colombiano reported that the AGC had been left without leadership in Medellin following the arrest of three top members.
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If Colombian authorities have obtained valuable financial information from the most recent arrests, as reported by El Espectador, this information could shine a light on how the AGC operate and potentially provide more clues about Otoniel's whereabouts. However, given the group's high level of organization -- which is evidenced by the AGC's alleged ability to traffic an average of two tons of cocaine a week, according to police -- capturing Otoniel will be no easy task.
US authorities are currently offering a $5 million reward for information leading to Otoniel's arrest, while Colombian police are also offering a sizeable amount of money for the AGC leader.