General Rodolfo Palomino proposed to revise and toughen sentences for Colombian drug traffickers sentenced in US courts in an effort to instill extradition with a stronger intimidation factor, reported EFE.
“It is undoubtedly necessary to review the cases so that penalties are stengthened,” said Palomino, in an interview with the El Tiempo newspaper.
“We’re not giving orders to the United States, but it must be asked that they review the situation so that this tool [extradition], which in the past was feared, is feared once again, so as to create an effect which really intimidates criminals,” said Palomino.
Initially implemented as part of the country’s joint efforts against narco-trafficking, extradition was fiercely opposed by figures such as Pablo Escobar, who used political connections to defeat early attempts at an extradition treaty and formed a group called “Los Extraditables” (The Extradite-ables), which lived by the slogan, “We prefer a tomb in Colombia to a cell in the United States.”
In Colombia, what few high-level drug dealers were arrested could expect, lenient, almost farcical conditions, like those imposed at one point on Escobar, who was allowed to build his own prison, a sprawling country estate with its own runway and world-class zoo. Whereas drug leaders could, and in many cases still can, run their operations from within Colombian prison, extradition to the United States meant long sentences and an almost complete loss of contact with Colombia.
Ultimately, extradition was the issue that caused Escobar to launch his gruesome all out war against the state. Extradition was banned in the original 1991 Constitution as a result of the violence and behind the scenes efforts.
When extradition was reintroduced as a government policy in 1995, after the death of Escobar, Colombian drug traffickers started negotiating with US law enforcement. In return for providing information, they would receive more lenient sentences that allowed them to quickly return to Colombia.
In recent years many drug traffickers have been extradited to the US, only to return a few years later after serving short prison terms, according to El Tiempo. Palomino, however, argued that drug trafficking is an international crime which affects not only Colombia but equally the United States, and therefore sentences should be harsher.
Palomino also defended the way in which US funds are allocated, especially with regard to aerial fumigation, a controversial method of coca crop destruction that contaminates local populations and water supplies and kills other, legitimate crops.
“We have to keep hitting them hard, counteracting rigorously.That means continuing with fumigation,” said Palomino, who did not provide El Tiempo with any statistics or studies demonstrating the efficacy of extradition.