Colombia's Supreme Court president suggested that the judiciary won't block efforts by lawmakers to ensure that FARC guerrillas receive amnesty for alleged drug trafficking crimes, one of the more controversial points of the country's peace process. 

On September 17, President of the Supreme Court Jose Leonidas Bustos said he believed it was possible to define drug trafficking as a "political" crime, "When it is used as a tool to economically support political ends in an armed conflict."

The Attorney General's Office later released a copy of Bustos' full remarks, which are significant due to ongoing uncertainty over whether top leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group will be extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges. 

According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), US courts have indicted at least 60 FARC members on drug trafficking and related charges. 

The FARC has been involved in peace talks with the Colombian government since 2012, and the issue of possible extradition to the US has long cast a shadow over negotiations. In one possible scenario, FARC leaders could be granted amnesty from extradition, if Colombia's judiciary and legislature rules they participated in drug trafficking in order to fund themselves during the armed conflict.

Bustos' comments implied that for now, Colombia's judiciary supports President Juan Manuel Santos' position on the matter, and is prepared to view the FARC's drug trafficking activities as a "political" rather than a criminal issue. Santos has said that Colombia's current peace process will not succeed if the government cannot assure the guerrillas they will not be prosecuted for drug crimes after they demobilize. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Bustos' assertion prompted criticism from the most prominent opponents of Colombia's current peace process: former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, and the General Inspector of Colombia, Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonado. While this was to be expected, it is nonetheless indicative of the tough task facing the Santos administration: selling the prospect of a FARC amnesty to the Colombian public. 

SEE ALSO:  Colombia News and Profiles

The FARC have previously said the guerrillas want "zero jail," a scenario that war-weary Colombians are highly unlikely to tolerate. The government is unlikely to mete out justice to the FARC in a way that would please hardline opponents of the peace process, like Uribe. However, as pointed out by Colombian legal expert Rodrigo Uprimny in an interview with Verdad Abierta (excerpts of which were republished in English by WOLA), if the government doesn't manage to win over other skeptics, "the peace is already lost." 

It is possible that Santos' government may yet rely on legal wrangling -- such as passing laws that would definite drug trafficking as a political crime in certain cases -- in order to avoid the Herculean task of building a stronger political consensus around the peace process. Bustos' comments may be another hint that that the government is ready and willing to go down this road. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...