Argentina approved the extradition of top Colombian drug lord “Mi Sangre” to the United States, creating speculation as to what information he may offer US drug officials and why he is not first being sent to his home country of Colombia.
On May 19, a judge in Buenos Aires signed off on the extradition of Henry de Jesús López Londoño, alias “Mi Sangre,” to face drug charges in the United States, reported Infobae.
Arrested in Argentina in October 2012, López Londoño began his criminal career with Medellín’s Oficina de Envigado. He went on to become a top leader of Colombian criminal organization the Urabeños and was allegedly in charge of the group’s Medellín operations.
He began living in Argentina with his wife and son in 2011.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mi Sangre
López Londoño fought extradition to face charges in a south Forida court, claiming to be the victim of political persecution by the Colombian government and US Drug Enforcement Administration. His trial, originally scheduled to begin in November 2013, was delayed several times by his defense team.
According to La Nacion, López Londoño can appeal the extradition decision before Argentina’s Supreme Court.
InSight Crime Analysis
If the extradition proceeds, Mi Sangre’s transfer to US custody raises several intriguing questions.
The first is his value as an intelligence source for US drug agents. Although he has been away from Colombia for several years, Mi Sangre was a key figure in Medellín’s criminal underworld, and likely has information on his criminal contacts and their modus operandi that law enforcement is keen to acquire.
Indeed, Mi Sangre may have information linking Colombian politicians to drug trafficking and involvement with paramilitaries, having himself been a member of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC). He has made lightly veiled threats to implicate officials in the past.
During a May 20 interview with La W Radio, López Londoño lawyer María Gabriela Ricagno was asked what her client meant when he said after being captured: “If they thought what they knew about General Santoyo was something, when I talk, that is going to seem like a child’s play.” Ricagno told the interviewer he would just have to ask her client.
General Mauricio Santoyo served as former President Álvaro Uribe’s security chief from 2002 to 2005. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a US court at the end of 2012 for links to the AUC.
That an Argentinian judge has approved Mi Sangre’s extradition to the United States, instead of sending him to Colombia, could also be related to a thawing of Argentina-US relations under President Mauricio Macri. During a recent visit to Argentina, US President Barack Obama moved to strengthen bi-lateral security ties and collaborative efforts to combat organized crime.