updated 5/7/2008 3:42:47 AM ET 2008-05-07T07:42:47

Colombia extradited one of the Andean country's most feared paramilitary warlords to the United States early Wednesday to stand trial on drug trafficking charges, the government said.

Carlos Mario Jimenez was flown to Washington, D.C., via Miami on a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration plane, according to President Alvaro Uribe's office, 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 Jimenez should not leave the country until he has confessed to crimes he is accused of committing as the leader of illegal far-right militias and paid reparations to victims.

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

Last year, the Colombian government stripped Jimenez of the benefits of a peace process — including protection from extradition — because it said he was continuing to traffic in drugs and run paramilitary operations from prison.

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

First to be extradited to U.S.
The 42-year-old Jimenez, 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.

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

Prosecutors said Jimenez became involved in a new gang war in northern Colombia after surrendering under the peace deal.

Emerging drug barons are filling a void in the trafficking business created by the demobilization of about 50 paramilitary warlords.

Colombia's paramilitaries were organized and funded by wealthy landowners and drug traffickers in an effort to wrest control of the countryside from leftist insurgents.

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