Colombia and the United States Renegotiate Extraditions

Written by Ciara Perez – September 5, 2022

Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla organization member, made history on June 19, 2022 as the first leftist candidate to win the presidential election in Colombia. He won the presidency by a slim margin, with forty-seven percent of the population opposed to him. His campaign addressed his desire to finalize peace efforts with the FARC, establish diplomatic ties with Venezuela, reexamine extradition policies, expand social programs, and address social and racial inequality in Colombia (Rodriguez, 2022).

On August 24th, President Petro took the first steps to make good on his campaign promise regarding the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. In a press conference, he detailed the conditions of extradition that he had proposed to the U.S. administration. “Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States. Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited,” Petro said (Acosta and Griffin, 2022).

The practice of extradition to the U.S. has become increasingly controversial as many believe it to cause interference in the investigations of war crimes and illegal armed groups. The victims of these crimes are often denied justice when their perpetrators are extradited. Most recently, the leader of the Clan del Golfo cartel, Dairo Antonio Usuga, was extradited to the U.S., which then presidential candidate Petro publicly denounced. At a rally, he said that “Otoniel wanted to say which generals in the police, in the military, which senators, which representatives, which governors, which ministers, which presidents had been allied with him” (Vargas, 2022).

With increasing feelings of frustration, this proposal comes after a series of failed attempts by previous administrations to deal with drugs within Colombia. Petro pointed out that “despite billions of dollars in security spending and decades of U.S. pressure to reduce drug production, Colombia remains a top global supplier of cocaine” (Vargas, 2022). In fact, a White House study reported in 2021, Colombia produced around 972 tons of cocaine, most of which was exported to the U.S., while 234,000 hectares were planted with coco, the plant used to make cocaine.

The President has stated that his priority will be fighting climate change and reframing drug policy around the environment. In his proposal to the U.S., he also mentioned crop substitution as a method of combatting the drug trade. Carlos Vargas reports that Petro “opposes restarting aerial spraying of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, with the herbicide glyphosate and wants to substitute coca crops with legal marijuana”. This would allow farmers to market legal products while voluntarily eradicating their coca fields.

While the proposed end to extradition isn’t official, Carolina Urrego, a political science professor at Los Andes University, says that if approved, it “could limit U.S. funding for the anti-drug fight and affect the general sense of security in Colombia” (Vargas, 2022). As of August 28th, the conversation between Colombia and the U.S. is ongoing regarding this proposed policy change, but Petro reports that his office is already flooded with peace and negotiation requests.

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