A Colombian lawmaker from the country's leading left wing opposition party has proposed a bill that would prevent any members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia from being extradited to the United States.
Victor Correa, representative of the Alternative Democratic Pole party (DP), said the move is meant to protect those FARC guerrilla leaders who are currently sitting at the negotiating table with the Colombian government trying to find a path to peace, and end the over 50 years of conflict in the country.
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According to the Washington Office on Latin America, the U.S. has, over the past 15 years, been Colombia's largest source of foreign aid. This includes military aid supposedly aimed at tackling the drug trade in the country, but which has largely abetted violence and fighting in the region. As part of the mission, nearly every leader of the FARC is wanted by U.S. courts or prosecutors to face drug trafficking charges, said WOLA.
The new bill suggested by Correa could aid the current peace process between FARC guerrillas and the government of Juan Manuel Santos, by convincing the guerrillas that they will not be extradited if they reach a peace agreement with the government and lay down their arms.
“The project seeks to change the conditions under which extradition is currently applied in the country ... we want to ensure that people have been subjected to processes of transitional justice can not be extradited, it will be beneficial to the peace process,” said Correa.
The DP lawmaker added that extradition does not contribute to the truth and reparation clause of the peace talks.
The president of the Colombian Senate, Luis Fernando Velasco responded positively to the proposal, saying it was a “valid political expression” but that it was something to be decided between governments and not through domestic legislation.
The bill would also lay the grounds for the government to repatriate demobilized FARC members who took part in the peace process, particularly FARC leader Simon Trinidad who was captured and extradited to the U.S. in 2004 on drug charges.
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Trinidad was given a 60 year prison sentence, which he is currently serving in a Colorado prison, and is considered an “enemy” of the Colombian State, even though he participated in the previous 1998-2002 peace talks and was named one of the FARC's five accredited representatives to the current peace negotiations in Havana. The guerrilla group continues to lobby for the leader's release.
Senate President Velasco also supported the repatriation of Trinidad, saying, “I think that if Simon Trinidad is important for the peace process, we should seek ways to bring him back.”
Repatriation is currently not allowed under Colombian law and considered controversial because of the potential diplomatic harm it may cause with other nations who submitted the extradition requests.
The bill will now go on to the First Committee of the House of Representatives to be discussed, but it is not yet known whether it has the support it needs to be able to pass in government.
The Colombian government and the FARC, the country's leading guerrilla group, have been participating peace talks in Havana, Cuba since 2012, in an effort to bring peace to the nation. The country has seen over 50 years of fighting between the Colombian army, paramilitary troops and guerrilla groups, which has killed over 220,000 people while tens of thousands have been disappeared or displaced.