Skip to comments.Colombia's Castano to Surrender
Posted on 09/26/2002 2:41:48 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Right-wing paramilitary chief Carlos Castano, wanted by the United States for drug trafficking, insisted Wednesday he is innocent but imposed conditions for his surrender to U.S. authorities.
Colombian authorities, meanwhile, called on the United States to seek the extradition of leaders of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, if Washington is serious about fighting drug trafficking.
The appeal came a day after the U.S. government said it wanted to extradite Castano, leader of a paramilitary force which has been battling rebels who also profit from drug trafficking.
"If there is coherence in U.S. policy ... it seems to me that in a few hours we will be receiving extradition requests for all the leaders of the FARC," Interior Minister Fernando Londono told parliament.
Castano said in a radio interview broadcast nationwide that his main condition for surrender was that his children be moved to the United States "because here in Colombia they will certainly be killed."
Colombian authorities indicated they would approve Washington's extradition request if Castano, who has two sons and whose wife is pregnant, is apprehended.
The leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, also said he wanted to be judged impartially, which he said he expects will happen in the United States.
"There, I will demonstrate my innocence, because I can rely on the impartiality of the American justice system," Castano told RCN television and radio. He said he was speaking on a mobile phone while traversing rugged terrain on horseback and crossing a river by canoe.
Castano, who did not say when he might surrender, insists he has not personally been involved in drug trafficking, although he admits committing and ordering numerous killings of suspected rebel collaborators.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota said it was not aware of any negotiations between the U.S. government and Castano for his surrender.
Castano's remarks came as Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met President Bush in the White House on Wednesday. Bush praised Uribe for fighting terrorism and drug trafficking and said the United States will help him "hold others into account" for violence in the South American nation.
U.S. authorities charge Castano was deeply involved in many facets of drug trafficking.
Since 1997, Castano and two other indicted paramilitary figures fixed prices up the production chain and arranged to haul tons of cocaine by ship to the United States and Europe, according to the indictment unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. District Court in Washington.
The AUC said earlier this month it would limit itself to taxing growers of coca, the raw material of cocaine.