Clan del Golfo: 11 things to know about Colombia's most powerful cartel

Clan del Golfo: 11 things to know about Colombia's most powerful cartel


The Clan del Golfo is Colombia's most powerful drug cartel with a hand also in illegal gold mining, authorities say, an activity behind the end of a bilateral truce of nearly three months.

The December 31 ceasefire with the government of President Gustavo Petro ended on March 19, largely due to its involvement in illegal mining .

The government says the cartel is behind the violent protests by miners that have rocked the northwest of the country since early March. Miners protest against the destruction by security forces of dredging machines allowing them to extract gold.

Protests have left at least two people dead in the Bajo Cauca region where government buildings have been destroyed. notably been targeted.

Gustavo Petro accuses the Clan del Golfo of “instrumentalising” the inhabitants of the region, of laundering drug money through the gold trade and of having broken the ceasefire. The government suspects illegal mining is as profitable as drug trafficking.

Here are 11 things to know about the powerful Colombian cartel:

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  • The cartel grew out of far-right paramilitary groups;
  • According to official estimates, the cartel is behind 30 to 60 % of cocaine exports from Colombia, some 700 tonnes per year;
  • The cartel has some 3,000 members;
  • It is also known as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC);
  • It works in extortion;
  • He controls the passage of migrants en route to the United States through the dangerous Darien jungle, on the border with Panama;
  • < li dir="auto">The Clan del Golfo was led by Dairo Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel” arrested and extradited to the United States last year;

    A photo of Dairo Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel”, shown during a press briefing by the American authorities, in May 2022.

    • The Clan del golfo reportedly split over President Petro's peace offer, according to military intelligence;
    • In early March, Wilmar Antonio Quiroz, alias Siopas, one of Otoniel's heirs in the head of the Clan, was found dead on a road in the northwest of the country; 
    • According to military intelligence, he was killed due to a conflict with another leader designated as Otoniel's successor, Jobanis de Jesús Ávila Villadiego, alias Chiquito Malo;
    • Siopas n was not in favor of the peace offer, unlike Chiquito Malo.

    As part of this peace offer, a bill provides for granting advantages to drug traffickers that would dismantle their organization, including reduced sentences ranging from six to eight years in prison and the possibility of keeping up to 6% of illicit assets.

    The government had announced a ceasefire at the end of December bilaterally with this cartel, but also with the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN, Guevarist), the dissident groups of the former Marxist guerrillas of the FARC, who did not sign the 2016 peace agreement, and a group of paramilitaries. 

    The Colombian internal conflict has claimed more than nine million victims (deaths, injuries s, displaced) in half a century.