The brother of the maximum leader of Colombian neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños is to be extradited to the United States, a blow to the organization that nonetheless is unlikely to weaken its position as Colombia’s leading drug gang.
The Colombian Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing Juan Diego Giraldo Usuga to Florida, where he will face charges of drug trafficking and criminal conspiracy.
Usuga, brother of Urabeños leader Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” was captured in the city of Medellin last year along with another brother John Fernando Usuga, alias “Simon.”
The two are alleged to have been responsible for the Urabeños criminal activities in 10 municipalities in the Colombian department of Antioquia and, according to the police, were in charge of approximately 400 men, reported El Espectador at the time.
While Simon was wanted in both Colombia and the United States, Juan Diego Usuga had no outstanding charges in Colombia, only in the United States.
The capture of Juan Diego and John Fernando Usuga was one of a series of blows against key Urabeños figures and the Usuga family in 2012. In January, security forces killed the Urabeños co-leader Juan de Dios Usuga, alias “Giovanni.” This was followed by the arrest of Juan Diego and John Fernando in May and, in July, of another Usuga brother, Alexander Montoya Usuga, alias “El Flaco,” who played a key role in maintaining relationships with Central American groups. In October, Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias “Mi Sangre,” who led the Urabeños push into Medellin and maintained international trafficking routes, was arrested in Argentina.
Nevertheless, the group has continued to aggressively expand and looks set to become the dominant criminal organization in Colombia under the leadership of the remaining Usuga brother, Otoniel. Despite the risk Juan Diego Usuga will offer information in exchange for more lenient treatment in the US, this surge is likely to continue.