In an operation yesterday, Tuesday, January 30, the Colombian army killed Robirio Antonio Úsuga Restrepo, alias Tripaseca, leader of the paramilitary group Gulf Clan, along with two other members of this criminal group who were allegedly part of his bodyguard. Tripaseca was a cousin of alias Otoniel, the top leader of the organization, captured in 2021 and extradited to the United States in May 2022.
The events occurred in the rural area of El Dos, in the municipality of Turbo, Antioquia, in the midst of offensive actions framed in the Ayacucho Joint Strategic Campaign Plan. The operation took place after six months of joint intelligence work between the army, the Colombian Aerospace Force (FAC) and the police to locate the criminal.
Long criminal history
Alias Tripaseca had a long history of 14 years as a member of this armed paramilitary group, with which the government of President Petro had tried unsuccessfully to initiate a peace dialogue. This occurred in March of last year, when the president recognised that, despite overtures of peace, the armed group was persisting with its illegal actions and generating violence against the civilian population, and therefore dismissed the possibility of integrating it into the Total Peace program.
The leader killed yesterday had participated in several criminal actions, among them the attack against some soldiers last year in Turbo, where one soldier lost his life and twelve others were wounded. He was also involved in crimes against the civilian population, such as extortion, micro-trafficking, forced recruitment of minors and homicides.
Blows to the family of alias Otoniel
This is the second time law enforcement has targeted relatives of alias Otoniel, who is serving a 45-year prison sentence imposed by a federal court in New York in August last year. On December 24, members of the national police captured Jacobo Rodriguez Usuga, alias Atilio, also a cousin of alias Otoniel.
Atilio was identified by the authorities as a key figure in the leadership of the Gulf Clan, and as the frontman of the cocaine business that has financed the cartel’s operations in Colombia for years.
The criminal exported the drugs in cargo containers leaving Colombia via the Caribbean coast and Antioquia’s Uraba region. He was also responsible for moving the drugs by speedboat to clandestine warehouses outside the Colombian mainland.
Breaking up the criminal gang
With yesterday’s military success, the criminal gang suffered a major blow to its top leadership. Since the capture of alias Otoniel three years ago, Jobanis de Jesus Avila, alias Chiquito Malo, currently heads the illegal armed group. However, the harassment to which the Gulf Clan has been subjected by the security forces has led to the capture or elimination of other important leaders such as Wilmer Giraldo, alias Siopas, Juan de Dios Usuaga David, alias Giovany, and Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias Don Mario, as well as Otoniel himself.
The Gulf Clan has a presence in 211 Colombian municipalities, mostly in areas of the Choco and Antioquia departments. Officially it has some 4,000 militants and maintains alliances with other criminal groups involved in drug trafficking, such as Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and some FARC dissidents.
Although it is grouped with the extreme right-wing paramilitary organisations, the Gulf Clan lacks ideology, and its military struggle with other groups, such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) in regions such as Choco, is due solely to the dispute for control of drug trafficking routes.