Colombia Shows Resolve With First Extradition
DEFYING threats that more judges will be murdered, the Colombian government extradited an alleged drug money launderer to the United States and offered hefty rewards for two reputed top cocaine kingpins. Eduardo Mart'inez Romero, who was flown out on Wednesday, is the first drug figure extradited under special emergency powers decreed last month as part of an unprecedented anti-drug war. Mr. Mart'inez is charged in Atlanta in connection with the laundering of $1.2 billion worth of illicit cocaine cash.
US Attorney General Richard Thornburgh praised the action: ``I applaud the extraordinary courage and resolve of President Virgilio Barco and the government of Colombia in their effort to restore the rule of law in Colombia.'' Mr. Thornburgh said Mart'inez would be given all the rights of a criminal defendant under the US Constitution.
On Wednesday, the Colombian government announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of two top traffickers, Pablo Escobar and Gonzalo Rodr'iguez Gacha.
US diplomats and drug enforcement officials here have said that once extraditions start, drug-related terrorism will get much worse. Traffickers say they would rather die in Colombia than suffer ``life in death' in a US prison. They threatened last month to kill 10 judges for every extradited drug suspect.
In 1987, the Supreme Court threw out an extradition agreement with the US. The last trafficker extradited, the Medell'in cartel's Carlos Lehder, is serving a life sentence in a US prison.
The extradition agreement was revived by President Barco last month when he invoked emergency powers after the assassination of the country's leading presidential candidate, an outspoken foe of the drug lords. Barco pledged a relentless campaign against drug traffickers, and police say the government has since virtually paralyzed cocaine production, raiding labs and sending the drug bosses into hiding.