Colombia will not extradite criminals who fulfill deals with gov’t -Petro

By Thomson Reuters Aug 24, 2022 | 5:02 PM

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian President Gustavo Petro said on Wednesday that drug traffickers who comply with government surrender conditions and exit the trade will not be extradited to face charges abroad.

Petro, who was sworn in this month on promises to bring “total peace” to Colombia, said his government is in touch with various armed groups who want to negotiate their way out of the country’s conflict.

Leftist Petro has broadly questioned the effectiveness of extradition, a legal tool that Washington considers a powerful deterrent to crime.

His government has floated an offer of legal benefits like reduced sentences to crime gang members who provide information about drug trafficking and lay down arms.

“Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited without any kind of negotiation to the United States,” Petro told journalists after a bilateral meeting with visiting Spanish President Pedro Sanchez.

“Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited,” he said.

The government is in communication with a variety of armed groups including the Clan del Golfo crime gang and dissidents from the now-demobilized FARC rebels, who reject a 2016 peace deal signed by their former group.

“We’re full of letters, written words asking for peace, asking to negotiate,” Petro said.

A United States delegation on a visit to Colombia this week has said the Biden administration recognizes a shared responsibility for the drug trade and the need to tackle it without hurting already vulnerable populations.

Sanchez said his country will continue to back Colombia’s efforts to implement the FARC deal and restart peace talks with the still-active National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.

“We are totally willing to contribute to the peace that the new government of Colombia is working on,” said Sanchez, who is also traveling to Ecuador and Honduras this week.

Spain could even be the venue for ELN talks, Sanchez said. Petro said any decision on location would have to be taken jointly with the rebels.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Richard Pullin)