Colombia extradites warlord to U.S.

.BOGOTá, Colombia (AP) – Colombia extradited one of the country’s most feared paramilitary warlords to the United States early Wednesday to face drug trafficking charges, the government said.

Carlos Mario Jiménez was flown to Washington, D.C. via Miami on a Drug Enforcement Administration plane, according to President Alvaro Uribe’s office. The announcement came just hours after Colombia’s top judicial panel overturned a Supreme Court decision that had temporarily blocked the extradition.

The Supreme Court had ruled last month that Jiménez should not leave the country until he has confessed to crimes he committed as the leader of illegal far-right militias and paid reparations to his victims.

On Tuesday, the judiciary’s high council overturned that decision.

Last year, the Colombian government stripped Jiménez of benefits offered during peace negotiations – including protection from extradition – because it said he was continuing to traffic drugs and run paramilitary operations from prison.

Far-right paramilitaries are engaged in a peace process with the government that has seen more than 31,000 fighters lay down their weapons. Commanders must confess to crimes in exchange for reduced sentences.

The 42-year-old Jiménez, better known by his alias “Macaco,” was among the least cooperative warlords, and in August became the first militia leader to lose his benefits under the peace deal.

He is now the first to be extradited to the United States.

In February, the Treasury Department named Jiménez as a specially designated narcotics trafficker, freezing any of his assets in the U.S. and forbidding any American citizen from doing business with him. Along with drug trafficking charges, the U.S. also accuses him of money laundering and financing terrorist groups.

Many victims of the private militias – which killed thousands and stole millions of acres of land – opposed Jiménez’s extradition, arguing that his victims would never be compensated and that many of his partners in crime would escape prosecution.

Alirio Uribe, the lawyer representing the National Victims’ Movement that had sought to halt the extradition, argued that Jiménez’s absence would mean many victims’ families would never find the bodies of disappeared loved ones.

But Judge Angelino Lizcano, speaking for the seven-judge panel Tuesday, said extradition does not mean the reparations cannot be obtained for Jiménez’s victims. He said Colombian prosecutors can still travel to the United States and obtain that information from Jiménez there.