Colombia extradites paramilitary leader

Colombia has for the first time extradited an imprisoned paramilitary leader to the US to face drug-trafficking charges. Bogotá agreed to the extradition of Carlos Jiménez Naranjo AKA Macaco because he was found to be continuing to run his criminal network from inside his prison cell—in violation of an agreement he had signed with the Colombian government, and the terms of the Justice and Peace Law.

Victims rights groups opposed the extradition and tried to halt it in the Colombian courts. They argued that JimĂ©nez had yet to give up a fortune in illegally acquired assets—including thousands of acres of farmland in the lush Magdalena River valley taken from ranchers and peasants. One court three weeks ago found in favor of the victims’ groups, finding JimĂ©nez could not be extradited until he had returned ill-gotten gains and completed his testimony before special courts set up under the demobilization law. But on May 6, an appeals court, the Superior Judicial Council, ruled that the extradition could go forward because it did not constitute “irremediable damage” to victims. The government of President Alvaro Uribe took this as a green light to send JimĂ©nez to face a US federal indictment.

In a press release, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement said the charges against JimĂ©nez include “engaging in drug trafficking with the intent to provide something of pecuniary value to a terrorist organization (narco-terrorism).”

In comments to reporters, US Ambassador William Brownfield said victims would still be able to file claims against Jimenez and that “the only thing that has changed is alias Macaco’s physical location.”

Bogotá human rights attorney Alirio Uribe Muñoz said that of the more than 30,000 paramilitary soldiers who have been officially “demobilized,” only 54 are in prison. (ICE press release, May 9; LAT, May 8; Radio Netherlands, AP via Univision, May 7)

See our last posts on Colombia and the paramilitaries.