Colombian Guerrilla Accused of Kidnapping to Be Extradited

By Dialogo
February 24, 2012

A FARC guerrilla involved in the kidnapping of three Americans who remained in the Colombian jungle for five years may be extradited to the United States, Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice has decided.

According to the decision, the court “will issue a ruling favorable to the extradition of Colombian citizen Alexander Beltrán for acts related to conspiracy to commit the crime of kidnapping.”

As a consequence, guerrilla member Alexander Beltrán (alias ‘Pirinolo’) may be turned over to the U.S. federal authorities to face charges in a Washington, D.C., court for the kidnapping of Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell, and Marc Gonsalves, American contractors kidnapped in 2003.

For the last three years, the court had denied the extradition requests made by U.S. authorities.

Even ‘Pirinolo’s’ superior, Helí Mejía (alias ‘Martín Sombra’ [‘Martín Shadow’]), also known as the FARC’s ‘jailer,’ was on the verge of being extradited, but the court held that his crime was committed in Colombia, and he should therefore be tried in the country.

Nevertheless, the prosecutor handling Beltrán’s case in the United States argued that the kidnapping victims were taken to other countries, such as Venezuela, in order to prevent a possible rescue by the Colombian police and Army.

The decision to extradite Beltrán to the United States will now have to be confirmed by President Juan Manuel Santos.

The three Americans were kidnapped on February 12, 2003, when the aircraft in which they were flying over a jungle area in the department of Caquetá was brought down by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.

In doing so, the rebels killed two people, one American citizen and one Colombian national.

The kidnapped men, U.S. State Department contractors, recovered their freedom on July 2, 2008, in a Colombian Army operation that succeeded in rescuing 12 other hostages without a shot being fired, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.