In blow to peace, Colombia jails ex-rebel on U.S. drug warrant

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BOGOTA-Colombia on Monday arrested a soon-to-be congressman from the Marxist FARC party -also known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - on charges of drug trafficking, the government said, sparking outrage from the former rebel group that demobilized past year.

Chief Colombian prosecutor Nestor Martinez says investigators in NY collected electronic evidence indicating Santrich and three others conspired in the second half of 2017 to send 10 metric tons of cocaine to the US with a street value of over $320 million.

Santrich's arrest was reported earlier by former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who said his home was raided at the same time as his former guerrilla comrades were meeting in the presidential palace with the visiting prime minister of Norway, which was a major supporter of the peace accord. "This really is what the Colombian persons require".

Santrich, who joined the guerrilla movement in his 20s and gradually rose into its central command structure, was one of the first rebel leaders to bet on peace.

The AP writes: "According to an Interpol notice, Santrich met with cocaine buyers at his residence on November 2, 2017, a day after one of his co-conspirators delivered a 5-kilogram sample of the narcotic to them at a hotel lobby in Bogota". Throughout the meeting along with subsequent discussions, " he along with his co-conspirators allegedly discussed options to get a 10-ton drug dispatch into the US, highlighting that they had use of cocaine labs and USA -registered airplanes to develop and transport the drugs inside Colombia, the world's biggest producer of their illegal narcotic.

After the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia disarmed previous year, the group announced the formation of a political party.

After his arrest, the president, Juan Manuel Santos, asserted in a televised speech that the Prosecutor's Office had evidence of the accusation and that if after the due process the Supreme Court of Justice endorsed the fiscal decision, his hand would not shake to extradite him to the United States.

With regards to the accord, rebels who put their weapons down and also confess their war offenses to exclusive peace tribunals should be spared jail time plus extradition.

Meanwhile, ex-FARC combatants accused USA and Colombian officials of orchestrating a set-up against Santrich and warned it likely will sow further skepticism among former rebels already doubtful that the government will follow through on its end of the peace accord.

Even before details of the arrest were known, FARC leaders condemned it as a set-up that would undermine nearly 7,000 demobilized rebel fighters' trust in the peace process.

The accord offers disarmed FARC members sanctuary to not be indicted for crimes committed before the 2016 agreement, however, those committed after are subject to a full judicial process.

Even the FARC extended financed their insurgency by leveling a "war tax" on cocaine proceeding through land the rebels dominated.

"Like addicts they just cannot quit the business", he included. Fifty members of its leadership structure - nevertheless perhaps not Santrich - had been imprisoned in 2006 at the US on costs of running the world's biggest drug cartel.

The FARC's ties to Colombia's flourishing drug underworld have always been a sore spot for the rebels.

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