- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

A high-ranking member of a left-wing terrorist group in Colombia was extradited yesterday to the United States to face prosecution on drug charges, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said.

Nayibe Rojas Valderama, also known as “Comandante Sonia,” was named in a federal grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in December 2003 as a leader in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC.

“The extradition of Rojas Valderama highlights the extraordinary cooperation between the United States and Colombia on the critical issue of cutting off the flow of illegal drugs,” Mr. Gonzales said. “Together, we will fight the criminals who threaten the safety and security of both of our countries.”

Prior to her arrest, Rojas Valderama was the finance officer for the FARC’s 14th Front, one of about 60 guerrilla units maintained by the organization. The State Department has classified FARC as a terrorist organization.

Rojas Valderama’s capture last year by Colombian special-forces commandos in the Colombian jungle was viewed as a major step in that government’s ongoing U.S.-led effort to attack the FARC, which is Latin America’s oldest, largest and best-equipped insurgency of Marxist origin — with an estimated force of 9,000 to 12,000 armed combatants and several thousand more supporters.

The FARC has been named in bombings, killings, mortar attacks, narcotrafficking, kidnappings, extortion and hijackings, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military and economic targets.

Rojas Valderama was charged with narcotics trafficking, accused of conspiring with another high-level FARC member, Jose Benito Cabrera Cuevas, and two international drug traffickers to import cocaine into the United States and distribute it throughout the country. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of all FARC assets gained from the sale of the cocaine.

Justice Department officials yesterday said several FARC members and criminal associates have been charged with terrorism and drug-related crimes in U.S. indictments, including the kidnapping and murder of U.S. citizens.

“The FARC is a dangerous organization of terrorists, drug traffickers, kidnappers and murderers,” said Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray, who heads the department’s criminal division. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our foreign partners to see that you are brought to justice.”

The investigation resulting in the charges and the extradition was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, working with trial lawyers from the criminal division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section.

The FARC controls large portions of Colombia and finances its war against the Colombian government through drug trafficking, kidnappings and extortion. The DEA has said the FARC controls about 70 percent of the Colombian cocaine trade and that between 80 percent and 90 percent of all the cocaine imported into the United States comes from Colombia.

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