HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Extradition Of Drug Lords Could Boost Aid
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Nov 2004
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2004 The Kansas City Star
Author: Steven Dudley, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Bookmark: (Colombia)


BOGOTA, Colombia - When President Bush visits Colombia today for a
brief stay, there are few bigger trophies he could carry back home
than the extradition order for Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela.

Once the leader of the mighty Cali Cartel that controlled up to 80
percent of the world's cocaine market, Rodriguez Orejuela, 65, and
brother Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, 62, are awaiting extradition to the
United States to face drug trafficking charges.

The extraditions would be considered a huge victory for Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe. After being peppered with allegations of
connections to traffickers during his presidential campaign, Uribe has
made his mark with the Bush administration by cracking down on them.

Since taking office in August 2002, Uribe has sent 192 suspected
traffickers to face U.S. trials, compared with 64 during all four
years of his predecessor's term.

Now Uribe hopes to capitalize on this show of goodwill to win another
round of massive aid from Washington. Since 2000, Colombia has
received more than $3 billion in U.S. dollars, more than any nation
outside the Middle East and Afghanistan. Analysts say that putting the
Rodriguez Orejuela brothers in the U.S. justice system may solidify
the U.S. Congress' support for a second round of aid.

Bush and Uribe are expected to discuss the new aid package during
Bush's three-hour stopover in the city of Cartagena on his way home
from a summit of Pacific rim nations in Chile. Gilberto Rodriguez
Orejuela's extradition is expected soon, but Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela
may still file an appeal with Colombia's Supreme Court.

Yet, while extradition can improve bilateral relations, it is not
always clear whether it is effective in deterring drug trafficking.
Many in Colombia, for instance, see the Rodriguez Orejuelas'
extradition as a token gesture, mostly because authorities here
dismantled the brothers' empire long ago.

The Cali Cartel emerged triumphant after the Medellin Cartel's demise
in the early 1990s. After the arrest of the most prominent Cali Cartel
members in the mid-1990s, the powerful Norte de Valle Cartel appeared.

And even as the Norte de Valle Cartel now struggles with internal
squabbles, authorities here say there are new "baby" cartels taking
its place.

"It does provide a morale boost for the troops since previously
untouchable drug cartel leaders are brought to justice," said Ruben
Oliva, a Miami defense attorney, in an e-mail exchange. "But it's the
same impact as when Al Capone was finally incarcerated. Everybody felt
good, but prohibition continued to be ineffectual. Al Capone was
easily replaced."
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