Image: Diego Fernando Murillo
El Tiempo  /  AP file
Diego Fernando Murillo, center, seen in this May 2005 photo, is wanted in New York for allegedly exporting tons of cocaine to the U.S.
updated 9/29/2005 9:26:31 PM ET 2005-09-30T01:26:31

President Alvaro Uribe said Thursday a paramilitary warlord can avoid extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges if he complies with a peace accord and quits committing crimes, drawing immediate condemnation from the U.S. ambassador.

“We are ... disappointed that they have decided to temporarily suspend implementation,” U.S. Ambassador William Wood said in a statement. “The U.S. will continue to pursue and press for the extradition of all those who have violated U.S. laws and harmed U.S. interests.”

Diego Fernando Murillo, a leader of the outlawed United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, is wanted in New York for allegedly exporting tons of cocaine to the United States.

Colombia’s Supreme Court on Sept. 7 authorized Murillo’s extradition to the United States to face drug charges. But Uribe said Thursday the former henchman of drug lord Pablo Escobar can avoid facing trial in the United States if he abides by an ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the AUC, “abandons illegal activities” and “collaborates effectively with the truth, justice and reparation” to paramilitary victims.

The statement from Wood is the sharpest criticism from any U.S. official on the leniency being offered by Uribe’s government to the right-wing paramilitary groups, which in their war against leftist rebels have committed massacres and sent a wave of cocaine to the United States.

‘Extradition is not a subject for negotiation’
Wood said shielding the paramilitary leaders from extradition to the United States must not be part of any peace deal. Wood pointed out in his statement that Uribe himself said on April 27, 2004 that “extradition is not a subject for negotiation.”

Wood insisted Uribe should stand by his word and authorize the extradition of Murillo, who uses the aliases Don Berna and Adolfo Paz.

“There can be no impediment to his extradition for the very serious crimes with which he is charged,” Wood said. “We urge the government to move expeditiously so that he can be extradited.”

Murillo is staying at a country house in northwest Colombia, under police guard. Murillo is the alleged former head of a team of assassins linked to Escobar, the leader of the now defunct Medellin cocaine cartel who was shot dead by police in December 1993.

The Medellin cocaine cartel waged a bloody terrorist campaign of bombings and assassinations in the 1980s to avoid being extradited to the United States. Escobar was killed by police in 1993, after the heyday of the Medellin cartel was already over.

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