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Colombia says ex-FARC leader held in drug probe


One of the top leaders of Colombia's former rebel group, FARC, has been arrested in Bogota following a request from the United States.

The rocky road towards peace just took another bump in Colombia as authorities captured ex-FARC head Seuxis Hernandez, known through his alias Jesús Santrich, on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

The landmark peace deal between the FARC and Mr Santos's government was signed in November 2016, putting an end to a half century of conflict.

One senior FARC member, Ivan Marquez, said the arrest was one of the worst moments for the peace process.

Waving white flags emblazoned with the red rose symbol of the former rebels" political movement, some shouted "freedom' and denounced what they called an act of judicial sabotage by the government and its USA backers.

In a televised statement, President Juan Manuel Santos warned that if the evidence shows the responsibility of Hernandez, "his hand will not shake to authorize his extradition".

'This is what the Colombian people demand. "Inside this aspect, there cannot be some room for weakness or tolerance".

Santrich, who is blind, was one of the first rebels to bet on peace, traveling to Norway's capital in 2012 to kick of negotiations with Colombia's government and then participating in talks that continued the next four years in Cuba.

He was picked up Monday at a Bogota residence on charges filed in a NY federal court alleging he conspired with three others to smuggle several tons of cocaine into the US with a wholesale value of $15 million (£10.6 million), or a street value of $320 million (£226millon). They allegedly discussed their access to coca fields, cocaine laboratories and US -registered aircraft to smuggle the drugs. It's not clear if the drugs were ever sent.




The chief prosecutor's office confirmed the arrest but said details would be released by the Colombian presidential palace.

The arrest stems under a week before President Donald Trump is set to go to Bogota for discussions with Santos by which USA claims that Colombia's long standing support for the drug war flagged during peace talks is expected to feature prominently.

Trump on Tuesday cancelled his visit, delegating Vice President Mike Pence to take his place.

USA governments have doubted the sincerity of their FARC government's commitment to abandoning the drug commerce since it passes politics, and past year called 2-1 suspected drug traffickers needed for extradition who somehow was able to wind up to a list of fighters and their sympathizers entitled to benefits under the peace treaty.

Under the peace accord, repentant FARC fighters were required to confess their wartime crimes and pay reparations to victims to avoid jail.

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.

"The construction of peace requires the absolute commitment and respect for the law and the accords", Santos said on Monday.

The FARC long funded their insurgency by leveling a "war tax" on cocaine moving through territory the rebels dominated. 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.

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