The Colombian government has issued mixed signals on how a new transitional justice agreement will deal with extradition requests for FARC guerrillas accused of drug trafficking.
On September 23, leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and government negotiators announced an agreement on transitional justice — a landmark step towards ending more than 50 years of conflict in Colombia.
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A day later, Colombia’s Supreme Court ruled that it was possible to connect the crime of drug trafficking with armed insurgency. This was favorable, in part, for the FARC, because should Colombia eventually pass legislation defining ways in which drug trafficking could be considered a “political” crime, this could shield the FARC from prosecution for their role in the cocaine trade.
However, the Supreme Court also said this should not impede extradition, and subsequently issued a favorable opinion on the extradition request for Juan Vicente Carvajal Isidro, alias “Misael” — the alleged financial director of the FARC’s 10th Front.
Further confusing the matter, in a recent press conference, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo hinted at leniency for the extradition of FARC members. “No one is going to participate in the peace deal just to be extradited,” he said. However, any definite terms on the issue would be established in the final peace accord, Jaramillo added.
US courts have indicted at least 60 FARC members on drug trafficking and related charges, meaning they could hypothetically be extradited to the US to stand trial, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
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Over the course of their rebellion, the FARC have relied heavily on drug trafficking to fund their efforts. While the latest advances in Colombia’s peace talks is a cause for much optimism, it seems as though the extradition issue will continue to cast a cloud of uncertainty over the negotiations.
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Recent comments by US Special Envoy Bernard Aronson suggested that the United States would support — or at least accept leniency — on drug extraditions in order to facilitate the peace process. While the US understandably has an interest in successfully prosecuting as many FARC members as possible, facilitating peace in Colombia — where the United States has already spent billions in security — is also to the country’s advantage.
In Colombia, vocal opposition to the peace talks remains another obstacle. Former Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana have both criticized the peace process for being too lenient when it comes to the FARC’s drug crimes.
Combined with President Juan Manuel Santos’ falling popularity ratings, this could mean trouble when the Colombian public eventually votes on the peace deal via a referendum.