EL TIEMPO, December 23, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias Otoniel, the captured former chief of the “Clan del Golfo”, testified at a hearing before the JEP that lasted five hours. He talked about the situation of violence in Urabá.

The capo described aspects of his family life, and how he was recruited by illegal groups in the area. He said that the FARC guerrillas were present in his region for a long time and later on came the EPL, and he said that the Armed Forces didn’t come around there very often.

“Otoniel” said that he had only finished fourth grade, that his family were campesinos, and that he had eight brothers.

He told how in Nueva Antioquia, where he was living with his family, he joined up at the age of 16, and that by then one of his brothers had already been recruited by illegal groups. “There wasn’t anything else for us there, so some of us joined up,” he concluded.

Later on he referred to the moment he was captured. “I said: I’m going to get out of these problems, whatever happens ( . . . ) I told them who I was; they didn’t mistreat me or anything, I took off my shirt.”

He admitted that there were Armed Forces operations going on in the area where he was, and he decided to approach them. “It was around two in the afternoon. I yelled, I talked with them, and they told me to come over to where they were. I went by myself ( . . . ) There was a little Corporal and he called his Commander in the Army,” “Otoniel” said.

He added: “In that region they will grab you and kill you. You might say I went over to the troops voluntarily, that’s how the capture took place.”

He maintained that he allegedly had intended to give up his illegal activities and look for an approach to the government to tell the truth about his crimes. And he claimed that he was willing to contribute to the clearing up of crimes, and to respect the rights of the victims.

“I’m disposed to contribute to the clarification of a lot of things, and to contribute to peace as much as I can,” stated the detainee after pointing out that the illegal network that he was commanding is now being led by five directors who he said “are willing to demobilize.”

The Justice in the case, Nadiezdha Henríquez, asked him how he had been recruited, and “Otoniel” answered that he went voluntarily to join the 5th Front of the FARC guerrillas. He said he was with them for a while and in 1988 he jointed the People’s Liberation Army (EPL in Spanish).

He indicated that at that time the guerrillas were financed by quotas that they demanded from business owners in the area and that, if they refused to pay, the guerrillas would steal their cattle. At the same time, he maintained that the FARC and the EPL had different methods of financing.

“They fought a lot there, all the time during that period,” stated the accused drug trafficker.

The Justice informed the detainee that anyone called to give testimony is required by law to do so, that he had been summoned to give testimony as a witness, and that “at this moment” he is not appearing as a party.

In the same manner, she pointed out that the JEP is seeking the whole truth about the violent events that took place in Urabá, and that that includes new crimes that took place between 1986 and December of 2016.

She also told the detainee that those crimes that have been investigated cannot receive amnesty, and that those who submit to the JEP have the right to legal benefits. She added that the whole truth is a key element for coexistence in a country that is coming out of a conflict and that that must be a commitment by every citizen.

“The North American justice system is also committed to victims’ rights,” said the Justice, after she pointed out that the cases against him will proceed in different directions, according to his commitment to the whole truth. And she reminded him that the Supreme Court of Justice has already, in other extradition cases, given weight to the victims’ rights and the protection of the whole truth.

The Justice recalled a Supreme Court decision that pointed out: “Approval of extradition must be harmonized with the protection of the rights to the truth, to justice, and to no repetition that belong to the victims of the armed conflict.”

She said that the whole truth is so important that the Court could decide to suspend or defer extradition until the detainee has completed furnishing the JEP with the whole truth. And that what he might relate in the United States will not affect all of the subjects in this investigation, as they are different jurisdictions.

“Otoniel” referred to subjects like the seizure of the Municipality of Saiza in Tierralta (Córdoba Department), perpetrated in August of 1988, and he maintained that he had not taken part in that armed incursion, but that he found out about the coordination that went on with the then-guerrilla chieftain, Efraín Gúzman.

The Justices asked him about five massacres perpetrated in the area, and he claimed that he had taken no part in them and that he had no information about them.

He stated that at that time, Urabá was controlled by the left, and the guerrillas got together with the politicians in the area and helped them, and that the people could not refuse to go to the meetings when they were required to.

He maintained that after the EPL demobilized there began to be a relation with the Castaño family, the founders of the Self-Defense Forces, and that the tranquility in the area only lasted six months; then the violent activities by the illegal groups got started again.

He said he had no information about forced recruitment of children, homicides, or other crimes such as displacement or cases of torture.

He indicated that murders of demobilized fighters surged, and that the people in the region had to choose a gang in order to have security. “Otoniel” said that when the EPL demobilized they turned in their weapons and that’s how the Self-Defense Forces re-armed a big group of demobilized fighters that were distributed in several regions of the country.

He denied that his organization was connected to crimes against demobilized fighters and social leaders.

“Otoniel” referred to the peace process with the FARC, and said that he had gone through three demobilizations and that this last negotiation is the one that has worked out the best. He said he had relied on the willingness of the President to protect the ex-combatants.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.