Former Colombian rebel leader charged in U.S. trafficking case

April 10 (UPI) — A prominent member of Colombia’s former FARC guerrilla group was arrested this week on charges he conspired to ship cocaine to the United States for the better part of the past year.

Jesus Santrich was arrested in Colombia

U.S. officials have not formally requested extradition for Santrich, but Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he will send the former rebel to the United States if it’s proved he engaged in a drug deal.

FARC members accused in trafficking cases prior to the peace process in December 2016 are shielded from extradition.

In September, the rebel group realigned itself as a political party following an accord that ended one of Latin America’s longest guerrilla wars.

The Marxist-inspired guerrilla rebels responsible for decades of kidnappings, bombings, extortion and the deaths of more than 220,000 people look to enter the political arena with a new identity, but some of the same principles.

FARC’s shift in focus began last summer when the group fully disarmed as part of a peace agreement with the Bogota government.

Santrich, indicted with three others by a U.S. judge this month, had been set to take a seat in the Columbian House of Representatives as part of the peace deal.

Prosecutors say Santrich conspired with drug traffickers to ship cocaine to the United States between last June this month.

“The agreement is clear,” said Santos. “Those who commit a crime after the signing of the final deal will be submitted to regular justice.”

Santrich said his arrest shows a failed peace process and that FARC should prepare for what will come.

The United Nations said a judge must rule on whether he should be extradited.

FARC called the charges a “hoax,” and said the arrest threatens the peace process.

“With the capture of our comrade Jesus Santrich, the peace process is at its most critical point and threatens to be a true failure,” the group said.

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