Colombia Declines to Extradite Druglord
BOGOTA, Colombia – President Alvaro Uribe (search) pledged Thursday not to extradite the country's top right-wing paramilitary leader to the United States to face drug trafficking charges provided he ceases all illegal activities and stays in peace talks.
A U.S. federal court in Washington is seeking Salvatore Mancuso (search), the supreme commander of the outlawed United Self-Defense Forces (search), or AUC, on drug-related charges.
But Mancuso is currently overseeing the demobilization of hundreds of paramilitary fighters under a peace process with the government and has made clear he will not disband the AUC if he faces U.S. prison time.
Mancuso had no immediate reaction.
It was the first time Uribe has not authorized the extradition of a suspect wanted by the United States even though he had the green light from Colombia's Supreme Court.
Uribe has used the threat of extradition to pressure AUC leaders to end their two-decade war against Marxist rebels and stop trafficking drugs to fund their operations.
But Uribe warned Mancuso that failure to fully comply would lead to automatic extradition, his office said Thursday in a statement.
Last week, Mancuso wept and apologized for AUC crimes as 1,400 fighters surrendered their weapons in the largest demobilization of an outlawed armed faction in the country's history.
So far, nearly 3,000 fighters have demobilized under the peace process and an another 500 are expected to turn in their arms at a ceremony in southeast Colombia this weekend.
Colombia's conflict kills more than 3,000 people every year.