Juan de Dios Usuga headed the Urabeños' military wing while the group was under the command of Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias "Don Mario." After Rendon’s arrest, Usuga and his brother Dario Antonio took command of an estimated 250 loyal combatants. They began expanding their recruitment and drug-trafficking operations in the Uraba region near the Panamanian border, where the Usugas are originally from. Juan de Dios was killed by the security forces on January 1, 2012.

With Usuga in charge, the Urabeños escalated a violent turf battle with the Paisas and the Rastrojos in southern Cordoba and in the Lower Cauca region, northern Antioquia. In 2009, the towns of Caucasia and Taraza saw soaring murder rates, as Usuga tried to take control of these drug distribution centers, both located on a major highway connecting Medellin to the Caribbean coast. The amount of land used for coca cultivation in Cordoba also doubled between 2008 and 2009, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Colombian anti-narcotics police have said this may be related to the expanded Urabeños presence.

Usuga was reputed to be extremely cautious about his safety, never sleeping in the same location twice, but was finally taken down in a raid by the security forces on his ranch in Choco province, near the border with Panama, in the early hours of January 1, 2012. The authorities had offered 500 million Colombian pesos ($278,000) in return for information leading to the capture of him or his brother, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel."


U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control: Kingpin Act Designations (March 2010).