Is U.S. Going After Colombian “Small Fry”?


In his seven years as president, Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe has complied with hundreds of U.S. extradition requests, furnishing the American justice system with cocaine kingpins like Gilberto the “Chess Player” Rodríguez, once head of the powerful Cali cartel, and “Don Diego” Montoya, who had his own private army, reports the Washington Post. Colombia extradites an average of four suspects to the U.S.each week, more than any other country. In recent years, the extradition of small to mid-level trafficking suspects has become more the rule than the exception.

A range of critics — defense lawyers, analysts and a former American ambassador who once strongly advocated extradition here — are questioning a policy that they say has gone beyond targeting drug kingpins to players on the periphery of the narcotics trade. They say the extradition is not only expensive for the U.S. but also suggests that Colombia’s justice system, despite improvements, cannot handle complex drug-trafficking cases. “It’s really time to rethink what we’re doing,” said Myles Frechette, who as U.S. ambassador to Colombia in the mid-1990s was responsible for reviving a moribund extradition policy. “Extradition is extremely valuable, but we’re wearing out our welcome, and we’re spending too much time going after the small fry.”

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