Colombian police interrupt drug lord hearing, cite escape plans

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Bogotá (AFP) – Colombian police on Thursday halted a hearing for a notorious drug trafficker arrested late last year, saying they had found plans for a possible escape.

According to an official statement, the police have ordered the “temporary suspension” of the hearing of Dairo Antonio Usuga, also known as “Otoniel”, before the Truth Commission, an extrajudicial body investigating a dispute of several decades between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Forces of Colombia (FARC) which resulted in a peace agreement in 2016.

According to the statement, the police were forced to take this unusual step because, “irresponsibly, the exact description of the place of detention of this individual has been made public”.

In addition, “human sources and information collected by the intelligence services (…) warned of the plans of the Clan del Golfo to try to organize his escape”, the statement said, referring to the group of drug deal that Otoniel ran before his capture.

However, some believe the move was intended to prevent Otoniel from exposing government corruption in his testimony.

Gustavo Petro, a leftist senator and leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election, called the police decision a “seditious act against the truth”.

“Government doesn’t want Otoniel talking,” he said on Twitter.

Otoniel, 50, was arrested in October in the dense jungle of northwest Colombia in an operation involving some 700 uniformed officers supported by 18 helicopters.

He is currently being held in an ultra-secure facility in Bogota, pending extradition to the United States.

FARC guerrillas laid down their arms after signing a historic peace pact in 2016, ending more than half a century of armed conflict.

But Colombia has been plagued by violence, particularly in recent months, as fighting continues for territory and resources between dissident FARC guerrillas, rebel group ELN, paramilitary forces and drug cartels. .

Colombia remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with the United States being its biggest buyer.