Colombian authorities arrested a FARC leader on US drug charges on Monday, delivering a major blow to the country’s peace process.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced the arrest on television, saying he wouldn’t hesitate to sign off on the extradition if claims are proven that “Jesus Santrich” engaged in a drug deal in November last year.
The United States has yet to formally request the extradition of the former guerrilla chief.
Members of the FARC are shielded from extradition over drug trafficking offenses allegedly committed before the beginning of the peace process on December 1, 2016.
Colombia’s prosecution, however, claimed that Santrich, whose real name is Seuxis Hernandez, has been conspiring with drug traffickers for months to send cocaine to the United States.
“The agreement is clear,” said Santos. “Those who commit a crime after the signing of the final deal will be submitted to regular justice” and can not count on the benefits granted by the peace deal that sought to end more than half a century of violence.
“Today shows that this is a failed peace process and that the entire FARC should prepare for what will come,” Santrich’ attorney, Gustavo Gallardo, said on behalf of his client.
The FARC said the charges were a hoax and announced it would hold a press conference on Tuesday to announce a reaction. Santrich’ attorney said that the former guerrilla negotiator would enter a hunger strike.
The United Nations, which monitors the peace process, said that it would oversee the procedure and stressed that a judge of the transitional justice tribunal must rule on whether the former guerrilla chief should be extradited or not.
The UN “calls on the state institutions to assess current developments with the utmost discernment, bearing in mind that the decisions taken will have profound consequences for the peace process in Colombia,” said the international organization in a press release.
Santrich was set to take seat in the House of Representatives in July as part of the peace deal with the government that allowed the former guerrillas political participation for two congressional terms.
An American judge indicted Santrich and three others on April 4, Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said.
“Those detained have betrayed the values and principled of the peace accords. To the thousands of demobilized combatants, the prosecution invites you to persevere in democracy and compliance to the legal order,” Martinez said.
The FARC relied on drug trafficking for its survival for decades, but withdrew from its illegal businesses in mid 2016, half a year before signing the final peace agreement.