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| 2/25/2009 12:00:00 AM

Colombia's Drug Extraditions: Are They Worth It?

Feb 25 -- When he was the king of cocaine, the prospect of doing hard time in an American penitentiary was about the only thing that made Pablo Escobar's blood run cold.

Living by the motto "Better a tomb in Colombia than a prison cell in the United States," Escobar unleashed a wave of car bombings and assassinations that forced the Colombian government to water-down extradition laws. Cowed officials even built Escobar a five-star jailhouse, with Jacuzzi, discotheque and fake waterfall, for a brief stint behind bars before the drug lord was gunned down by police in 1993.

In contrast to all the bloodletting and legal gymnastics that surrounded extradition in the 1980s and 90s, sending Colombian criminal suspects north has of late become an almost everyday ritual. In December, drug lord Diego Montoya — a.k.a. Don Diego, or the Boss of Bosses in Colombia's underworld — was extradited to the U.S., where he was on the FBI's Most Wanted list along with Osama bin Laden. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has dispatched nearly 800 thugs to the United States — about two per week — since he was first elected in 2002. That is 10 times more than his predecessor, Andres Pastrana. The policy helps Uribe stay in the good graces of the U.S. government, which props up the Andean nation with about $600 million in annual aid. It also rids Colombia of the headache of prosecuting and jailing criminal masterminds. The threat of extradition has helped to demobilize 30,000 paramilitary fighters who were financed by the drug trade.
 
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EDICIÓN 1850

PORTADA

El hombre de las tulas

SEMANA revela la historia del misterioso personaje que movía la plata en efectivo para pagar sobornos, en el peor escándalo de la Justicia en Colombia.