Colombia Approves, Then Withdraws, Extradition of Major FARC Terrorist to New York

State Department
State Department

As recently as last night Eastern Time, reports circulated that the Colombia government had approved the extradition of major Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist Eduardo Cabrera (alias ‘The Priest’) to New York, where he awaits a 16-year prison term. Hours later, the government has rescinded its agreement with the United States.

Cabrera has been sentenced to 16 years in prison in the United States for cocaine trafficking; the Argentine news outlet Infobae notes that he is estimated to have organized the exporting of almost 1,500 kilos of cocaine out of Colombia, as well as taking charge of the operations to manufacture the drug product. Much of that product made its way into the United States.

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported the news yesterday, describing such an extradition as “unprecedented.” The authorization of such an extradition appeared an especially bold move because of Cabrera’s ties to the highest ranks of the terrorist organization. His brother, José Benito Cabrera (alias Fabián Ramírez), is currently being given safe harbor in Havana and sits on the negotiating table as a FARC representative in peace talks with the Colombian government.

Just as swiftly as the news broke, however, the Colombian government rescinded its authorization to extradite Cabrera. The Associated Press reports that Colombian officials have asserted they must wait until legal disputes awaiting Cabrera in Colombian prisons are also resolved to extradite him. The government said in a statement that they would wait to extradite Cabrera until he is sentenced and serves his time in Colombian prison.

As the AP notes, the timing of the suspension of Cabrera’s extradition is suspicious given the demands of the FARC group negotiating in Havana. The FARC have demanded the release of a number of high-ranking terrorists in their group currently serving time, including Ricardo Palmera (alias “Simón Trinidad”), who is currently serving a 60-year sentence in the United States, as well.

Speaking to the website El Colombiano, one critic lamented the postponement of the trade. “This is a new gratuitous concession to the FARC… what we are seeing is that, without signing [a] peace [agreement], they are already forgiving his crimes,” said Colombian legislator Alfredo Rangel.
Cabrera was only sentenced to a 16-year sentence after being arrested in November 2013 because courts proved throughout the case that he had organized a major wing of drug trade for the group, but did not appear to have any decisional authority regarding the group’s terrorist activities.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is the wealthiest non-jihadist terrorist organization in the world. The FARC’s elaborate drug business generates more revenue than the operations of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Taliban combined. As of 2013, it is estimated that 220,000 people had been killed in the 50-year history of FARC operations, a low estimate that may exclude deaths attributable to abandoned land mines. 11,000 people have been estimated to have died in the past 15 years upon coming into contact with hidden FARC land mines in Colombia.