Out of the Shadows

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Colombia’s largest drug cartel shut down dozens of towns in the country’s north this week and threatened to shoot all who disobeyed its stay-at-home orders, a move seen as retaliation for the extradition of the group’s leader to the United States, CBS News reported Tuesday.

Last week, the Gulf Clan issued an “armed stoppage” decree, forcing the closure of businesses and schools, and suspending intercity bus services and the delivery of gas to homes.

The criminal group warned that it would shoot people who violated the rules and torch their vehicles. Colombian authorities said more than 180 cars were burned and dozens of people were killed, including three police officers.

The decree follows the extradition of the Gulf Clan’s leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David – also known as Otoniel – to the United States, where he faces drug trafficking charges and allegations of assisting a far-right paramilitary group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government.

Otoniel was arrested last year in a high-profile operation involving hundreds of soldiers.

Although the situation appeared to be winding down Monday, analysts warned that the cartel’s ability to shut down towns highlighted flaws in the government’s long fight against drug trafficking organizations.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government tried to play down the cartel’s stoppage, saying that it had deployed 52,000 troops to the affected areas to protect citizens. President Ivan Duque described some of the cartel’s activities as “isolated incidents,” adding that the organization was now weaker.

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