Colombia Arrests Former Marxist Rebel Leader on US Drug Trafficking Charge

Former FARC negotiator arrested on drug trafficking charges and could face extradition to the US

BOGOTA-Colombia on Monday arrested a soon-to-be congressman from the Marxist FARC party -also known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - on charges of drug trafficking, the government said, sparking outrage from the former rebel group that demobilized a year ago.

Seuxis Hernández, who is known by his alias Jesús Santrich, played a significant role in the negotiations that led to a peace deal with the government in 2016.

"If due process is fulfilled - and if there is irrefutable evidence - then there are grounds for extradition for crimes committed since the signing of the (peace) accord, and I will not stay my hand in authorising that", Mr Santos said.

Santrich and three co-conspirators who were also detained were indicted by a NY grand jury for allegedly planning to traffic a cocaine shipment with a street value of $320m to the US.

During the meeting and subsequent negotiations, he and his co-conspirators allegedly discussed plans for a ten-ton drug shipment to the USA, boasting they had access to cocaine laboratories and US -registered planes to produce and transport the drugs inside Colombia, the world's largest producer of the illegal narcotic. "It's a very bad message for the Colombian people, for the former combatants and for the peace that our country so badly needs".

"This really is the most peculiar time which the peace process goes", claimed the prior rebel chief called Ivan Marquez, who functioned as main negotiator during the peace talks.

Santrich was a member of the FARC's central high command, the members of which were indicted on drug trafficking charges by the U.S.in 2006. "Inside this aspect, there cannot be some room for weakness or tolerance".

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"Those detained have betrayed the values and the principles of the peace deal", Martinez said.

After the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia disarmed past year, the group announced the formation of a political party. It provided a copy of part of a Colombian search warrant that said authorities raided his home in Bogota at the request of the U.S. Embassy.

Under terms of the accord aimed at ending Latin America's longest-running conflict, rebels who lay down their weapons and confess their war crimes to special peace tribunals are to be spared jail time and extradition. FARC rebels signed a peace deal with Colombia's government in 2016.

The FARC long funded their insurgency by leveling a "war tax" on cocaine moving through territory the rebels dominated.

The FARC's ties to Colombia's flourishing drug underworld have always been a sore spot for the rebels.

"The senior leadership never cut ties to the cocaine production that earned them billions of dollars as an insurgence", said Douglas Farrah, a senior visiting fellow at the National Defense University who has testified to U.S. Congress on the FARC's criminal ties. Fifty members of its leadership structure - nevertheless perhaps not Santrich - had been imprisoned in 2006 at the US on costs of running the world's biggest drug cartel.

'Like addicts they just can't quit the business, ' he added.

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