On March 30, Colombia shared a list of 11 alleged National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas it intends to extradite to the United States for the first time for narcotrafficking.
“This is the first time in Colombia’s history that an ELN member is being extradited to the United States for causes related to narcotrafficking,” said High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos.
Ceballos added that the measure “is part of a broader request from various U.S. prosecutors and judges.”
“There are 11 ELN members in total, four of whom have already been captured,” the presidential advisor added. The other seven are fugitives.
On March 29, Colombian President Iván Duque signed the extradition papers for José Gabriel Álvarez, who is wanted for drug trafficking by the Southern District Court of Texas.
The last recognized guerrilla group in the country, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) signed a peace agreement in 2016, has denied the allegations.
“It is totally false that the individual named José Gabriel Álvarez Ortiz is an ELN member, just like the other three that they say will be extradited,” the rebel group’s central command said in a statement.
Active since 1964 and consisting of 2,300 combatants, the guerrilla group said it was no longer connected to narcotrafficking.
The four alleged ELN members that were captured and wanted for extradition are Yamit Rodríguez (alias Choncha), Franco Ruiz (Motorola), José Gabriel Álvarez (Gabriel), and Henry Trigos (Henry).
Designated as a “terrorist” group by the United States, the European Union, and the Duque government, the ELN is “on the way to being considered a narcotrafficking group internationally,” Ceballos said.
“Now, it is up to the ELN to tell us clearly whether or not they are willing to make peace; if so, they must quit the narcotrafficking business forever,” he said.
Duque suspended the peace talks that his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, held with the ELN, following a car bomb attack on a police academy that left 22 cadets dead, in addition to the attacker.
The president has urged Cuba to extradite the rebels who remained in its territory after the failed negotiation, but the island nation rejects the request, claiming respect for the protocols it signed with Colombia and guarantor countries, which provide for the delegation’s safe return to their camps.
Colombia is the largest cocaine producer in the world, with the United States being the top consumer worldwide.