Colombia’s foreign minister insisted Friday that her country’s extradition treaty with the United States is valid as she pushed for the extradition of a former minister wanted for embezzlement.
In an interview with W Radio, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin argued that the Supreme Court has an “obligation” to request the return of someone who was sentenced in Colombia but is out of the country, reported El Espectador.
According to former President Alvaro Uribe and other political allies of former Agriculture Minister Alfred Felipe Arias, the constitutional court sank the 1979 extradition treaty in 1986, which is confirmed by court records.
Arias was sentenced to 17 years in prison by Colombia’s Supreme Court in July 2014 for embezzling $25 million in state subsidies intended for poor farmers.
He fled to Miami shortly before the ruling when word leaked of the court’s impending decision.
Arias was arrested by US marshals in Miami early last year, two years after Colombia initially had asked for his extradition.
The validity of Colombia’s extradition treaty with the United States has recently been thrown into question, as reports surfaced that the constitutional court had in fact rejected the proposed measure in 1980.
Despite this, Holguin argued that “the treaties end when one of the two renounces the treaty, and in this case that hasn’t happened. In our case we act in accordance with the code of criminal procedure,” reported El Espectador.
Despite his efforts to extradite Arias, President Juan Manuel Santos has previously acknowledged that no extradition treaty with the US exists.
We have an extradition treaty with Venezuela, we do not have an extradition treaty with the United States, this is what a lot of people don’t know.
President Juan Manuel Santos
More ironically, the Democratic Center party led by former president Alvaro Uribe, brought up the invalidity of the treaty in efforts to block Arias’ extradition.
The Uribe administration’s reported 1,200 extraditions are more than any previous administration.
If the more than 1,200 extraditions to the United States have indeed never been approved by the Constitutional Court, this means that each individual case could be challenged and — if their extradition is deemed unconstitutional — every single extradited alleged drug trafficker could sue the Colombian state for violating their constitutional rights and demand financial compensation.