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Colombia Extradites Paramilitary Leader to US

  • Manuel Rueda

A former Colombian right-wing paramilitary leader was extradited to the United Sstates, Wednesday. Carlos Mario Jimenez, also known as "Macaco", or Monkey, will face drug trafficking charges in the US. His extradition has met mixed reactions in Colombia. Manuel Rueda reports from Bogota.

Jimenez once headed the Bloque Central Bolivar, one of the largest battalions of the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia, or AUC. He struck a peace deal with the Government in 2005. But his priviledges were revoked last year, when he was accused of running a criminal empire from prison.

The extradition of Jimenrez came after Colombia's Supreme Judicial Council overturned a previous court decision that had blocked the move.

Colombia's interior minister Carlos Holguin said that paramilitary leaders who do not collaborate with the justice system will face this sort of punishment.

But human rights groups were angered by Jimenez's extradition.

Eduardo Carreno is a member of the Jose Alvear Lawyer's Collecive. He represents victims of paramilitary violence. He says that in the United States, Jimenez will only be tried for drug trafficking. His war victims will not be able to claim justice and reparation.

The Colombian officials said Jimenez arranged numerous cocaine shipments to the U.S.

But he also fought against the FARC guerrillas (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) for over a decade. He's said to have executed hundreds of civilians. And his men allegedly forced thousands to flee their homes.

U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, offered some reassurance to Jimenez's victims.

Brownfield said any Colombian citizen who feels they have been a victim of Macaco, will have the right to access the U.S. legal system. He said. They can press charges against him in the US.

The victims' representatives say that it could be difficult for victims and their lawyers to navigate the U.S. legal system. And that practical matters like travel costs, will make it harder for them to press charges against Jimenez. So they're planning to appeal to Colombia's supreme court.

They said in the future, paramilitary leaders should be tried for human rights abuses in Colombia, before they face drug trafficking charges abroad.

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