US authorities could demand the extradition of two FARC guerilla leaders arrested by Colombian commandos during their rescue of 15 hostages, Justice Department officials said July 7. FARC leaders Gerardo Antonio Aguilar Ramírez AKA “César” and Alexander Farfán Suarez AKA “Enrique Gafas”, were indicted by a US federal court in May 2006, on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and of holding hostages. The US also holds them personally responsible for kidnapping three US contractors, who were freed in the Colombian military operation after five years in captivity.
“At this time, we cannot comment on whether or not a US extradition request for César and Enrique Gafas has been filed with the Colombian government as of today,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd. “We continue to work closely with the Colombian government on this matter.” (AFP, July 8; Colprensa, July 3)
Meanwhile, former Sen. Luis Eladio Pérez, unilaterally liberated from FARC captivity with three other former Colombian lawmakers in February, flew to the United States on July 9, saying death threats made it clear that remaining in Colombia imperiled his life. “It’s a very sad situation,” Perez told McClatchy Newspapers from a safe house in Bogotá the night before he fled the country. “I was just getting re-established here.”
Pérez said he thinks the FARC issued the threats after a Colombian general implied that he had provided intelligence to authorities who were planning the rescue operation, code-named “Jaque,” or Checkmate. Pérez insisted he’d played no role, and no evidence has emerged to contradict him. He has also denied rumors that he was lovers with fellow hostage Ingrid Betancourt during their years of mutual captivity. (McClatchy Newspapers, El Financiero, Mexico, July 9)
In statements to the press before going into hiding in the US, Pérez raised the possibility that the threats against him might have actually come from a source other than the FARC, adding “I have opposed the government very explicitly.” And while he testified to Colombian prosecutors that César and Gafas tortured hostages—for instance, making them march barefoot through the jungle—he also expressed his disagreement with their extradition, saying, “They should first pay for their crimes against humanity in Colombia.” (Colombia Reports, El Espectador, Bogotá, July 9; El País, Cali, July 8)
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