President Santos proposed that we consider drug trafficking a political crime.
By that same logic, Pablo Escobar, who contributed to helping the poor of the city of Medellin, was not a drug trafficker but a victim of politics! Escobar funded social programs and housing projects to benefit the poor. He also funded the construction of soccer fields in some of Medellin’s worst slums.
The FARC admitted their involvement in drug trafficking. As part of the peace talks in Havana, the FARC agreed to cease ties with drug trafficking.
To showcase the FARC as political criminals, as President Santos is attempting, is to politically campaign for them, and to help them legalize their immense wealth acquired through drug trafficking. According to Forbes Israel, the FARC are the third richest terrorist group. Their wealth includes 900,000 hectares of land that borders the departments of Huila, Caquetá, and Meta. An elite intelligence group said when negotiations began at the end of 2012, the FARC secretariat passed their assets to third parties and to accounts abroad in Germany, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Panama, according to demobilized combatants and intercepted emails. Prosecutor Alejandro Ordóñez pointed out the FARC’s hidden wealth be part of the government-FARC negotiations so that an eventual peace agreement is not a grand money laundering scheme.
President Santos hopes the country will forget/ forgive the FARC’s narco past and accept them, presumably, as newly minted politicians. What is Santos gaining from this?
In the past, President Santos expressed willingness to push for legalizing drugs, including cocaine. He stressed that the initiative would work only if it was co-ordinated internationally and emphasized the vital role that the U.K., the U.S. and the European Union would have to play in shaping the debate.
To accept the FARC’s narco past as a political crime is to open the door for the U.S. not to demand their extradition. Currently, the U.S. seeks the extradition of nearly every member of the FARC’s “Secretariat” leadership to face charges of drug trafficking, and in most cases offers a reward of up to $5 million dollars. As many as 50 FARC leaders are thought to be facing orders for their extradition to the U.S., including several of the commanders sitting at the bargaining table in Havana.
The U.S. Ambassador in Bogotá, Kevin Whitaker, said, “I will vigorously support our efforts to guarantee that individuals accused in the United States are extradited.” He added that regardless what is agreed in Havana, the U.S. hopes to continue co-operating with Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. Whitaker said he does not foresee any changes in Washington’s policy towards Colombia.
Further, U.S. President Obama recently said, “the actions of mayor drug traffickers centered in Colombia continue posing an extraordinary and unusual threat to (U.S.) national security, foreign policy, and the United States economy, and causing an extreme level of violence, corruption, and damage inside and outside the United States.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently linked the FARC with Al Qaeda after three alleged Al Qaeda members were arrested for smuggling drugs through West Africa to raise money for jihad. Jay Bergman, the DEA director for the Andean region, said, “As suggested by the recent arrest of three alleged Al Qaeda operatives, the expansion of cocaine trafficking through West Africa has provided the venue for an unholy alliance between South American narco-terrorists and Islamic extremists.”
The U.S. executive branch has no power to withdraw the extradition requests. According to Adam Isaacson of WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, if Colombia does not fulfill the United States’ outstanding extradition requests for FARC leaders, it is up to the President and the State Department to decide whether this has any effect on U.S.-Colombian relations. The U.S. judiciary’s extradition requests for demobilized FARC leaders will remain on the books, always hanging over Colombia’s post-conflict reality, added Isaacson.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently traveled to Bogotá. Kerry said, “We’re already helping to build the key foundations of a post-conflict future through Colombia’s justice sector, which we’re providing support to.” How that will translate remains to be seen.