GONZALES LAUDS EXTRADITION OF COCAINE TRAFFICKERS
BOGOTA, Colombia -- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday hailed an extradition pact that has sent hundreds of Colombians to the United States for trial, saying that no drug trafficker is beyond the reach of U.S. justice.
Gonzales, in the first visit in five years by the top U.S. law enforcement official, said extradition was critical in combating drug trafficking and the outlawed armed groups that control the trade.
"The extradition relationship that we have in Colombia is the very best in the world," Gonzales said at a joint news conference with his Colombian counterpart, Mario Iguaran.
President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's staunchest ally in Latin America, has extradited about 350 Colombians to face U.S. justice, including the co-founders of the Cali cocaine cartel and two leftist rebel leaders, since he came to office in 2002.
The majority of them had been indicted in U.S. courts on drug, money- laundering and conspiracy charges, but some cases also involved murder and kidnapping.
Uribe's predecessors extradited about 50 suspects between 1992 and 2000, according to figures from the Colombian attorney general's office.
Gonzales' visit to Bogota came after Colombian Supreme Court justices expressed concern that U.S. authorities were sometimes failing to respect the terms of the bilateral extradition treaty, under which U.S. prosecutors agree not to seek a tougher punishment than what the suspects would have faced had they been tried in Colombia.