- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

The Justice Department has begun the process to extradite three leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who reportedly oversaw the smuggling of $25 billion worth of cocaine to the United States and other countries and used the profits to fund terrorist activities.

Jorge Enrique Rodriguez Mendieta, Erminso Cuevas Cabrera and Juan Jose Martinez Vega were among 50 FARC leaders and members named in a federal grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington and unsealed March 21. They were charged with using terrorism and violence to further the FARC’s multibillion-dollar cocaine-trafficking enterprise.

The three, in custody in Colombia, have been served with U.S. provisional arrest warrants based on the indictment, the first step in their extradition. Meanwhile, the State Department has offered more than $75 million for information leading to the capture of the remaining FARC leaders.

“This indictment strikes at the very heart of the FARC narcotics operation that has flooded our communities with cocaine,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. “Because of unprecedented cooperation between U.S. and Colombian authorities, we are closer than ever before to reaching our goal of bringing the leaders of this narco-terrorist group to justice in the United States.”

The indictment said that Colombian farmers who sold cocaine paste to non-FARC buyers were killed, that some were dismembered alive and that group members were ordered to kidnap and kill American citizens to discourage the U.S. government from disrupting the FARC’s cocaine-trafficking activities.

“From their jungle hideaway, the FARC uses the drug trade to bankroll terrorism in Colombia, finance attacks on innocent citizens and poison Americans,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen P. Tandy, adding that the indictment “challenges that lawlessness, and the FARC leadership should prepare to face the justice that they have long denied to so many.”

According to the indictment:

• Rodriguez Mendieta served as a member of the FARC’s operational leadership council, directed the purchase of thousands of kilograms of cocaine paste and sent billions of Colombian pesos in cocaine proceeds to other FARC officials. He also is charged with ordering the slaying of at least eight farmers.

• Cuevas Cabrera was a FARC associate who managed cocaine laboratories and supervised the production and distribution of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine. He was arrested by Colombian authorities in late 2004.

• Martinez Vega was a FARC associate who provided large quantities of arms and ammunition to the group in exchange for thousands of kilograms of cocaine. He was arrested in early 2005 in Venezuela, where authorities said he was in possession of 700 kilograms of cocaine. He later was turned over to Colombian authorities.

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