HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Violence Feared After US Extradition
Pubdate: Sun, 13 May 2001
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

VIOLENCE FEARED AFTER US EXTRADITION

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Analysts who study the Mexican drug trade are warning 
that the first extradition of a high-level drug suspect to the United 
States - a move celebrated by American officials - could spark nationalist 
resentment and perhaps even violence in Mexico.

Arturo "Kitty" Paez, 34, who appeared in federal court in San Diego last 
week to face charges of conspiring to smuggle and distribute tons of 
cocaine into the United States, was the first in an expected wave of 
suspects headed north, part of a new policy based on a Jan. 18 Supreme 
Court ruling that some Mexicans call shameful.

American officials called it proof of Mexico's willingness to cooperate on 
the crackdown on drugs. Mexico has promised to try to extradite seven more 
alleged drug capos, including men prosecutors describe as the "kings" of 
methamphetamines.

But the example of Colombia, where "extraditables" - drug lords wanted in 
the United States - waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations to 
resist capture and extradition, worries many Mexicans.

"Extradition is a very powerful weapon in the hands of a weak government," 
said Jorge Chabat, a drug expert at Mexico City's Center for Economic 
Development Research. "It's like putting an AK-47 in the hands of a child; 
he could kill himself. This could just provoke the rage of the narcos."

The late drug lord Pablo Escobar played on Colombians' patriotic 
sentiments, claiming he was fighting for "family, liberty, life, the rights 
of nationality and country."

That kind of appeal may not hold as much sway today, Chabat said.

"Their nationalist arguments got a certain amount of response in the 
1980s," he said. "Now, with globalization, integration, such demands don't 
have a lot of potential to draw support."

But the unanimous court ruling, which applies only to the United States, 
has angered some. It reinterpreted a law that had required Mexican citizens 
to be tried in the nation's own courts, saying the government has 
discretionary power to send its citizens to the United States for trial 
provided they are sentenced under Mexican guidelines. Since Mexico does not 
apply the death penalty, the ruling apparently means no extradited 
defendant could be executed in the United States.

"The court enlisted itself, improperly, as an ally in the war against 
drugs," said Ignacio Burgoa, one of Mexico's foremost experts on 
constitutional law. "The court is not a diplomatic institution, nor should 
it carry out foreign policy."

Luis Astorga, a sociologist who studies the drug trade, said the court "put 
politics above the rule of law. The ruling was designed expressly for the 
United States."

It has pleased others. "The law is more strict in the United States, so you 
know these guys will get what they deserve," said Juan Villegas, as he 
wielded a butcher's knife at his Mexico City taco stand. "Here in Mexico, 
money speaks, and you never know if they'll really stay in jail."

Informal phone-in polls suggest Mexicans support extradition by a thin 
margin, but that's something that might quickly change in the face of a 
killing campaign like the one Escobar waged.

The new law definitely pleases the United States, whose embassy said Paez's 
extradition "sends a very strong signal to drug traffickers." Paez, who was 
extradited earlier this month, is accused of being a lieutenant in Mexico's 
most powerful drug trafficking group, the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix.

Mexican prosecutors say that it may be only a matter of months before 
anti-extradition appeals run out for seven accused drug traffickers, two 
suspects facing extortion counts, and suspects charged with kidnapping, 
homicide and criminal association.

The top prizes would be Luis Amezcua and his brother Jose de Jesus, who 
allegedly ran one of the world's largest amphetamine rings. Since they face 
Mexican charges, they must be tried here first, but could then immediately 
be sent to the United States for trial before serving jail time in either 
country.

It's not all up to Mexico. The man the United States wants most is Ramon 
Arellano Felix, a leader of Mexico's most violent cartel. He reportedly has 
lived on both sides of the border, evading both U.S. and Mexican police.
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