Bolivia Extradites First Suspected Cocaine Trafficker to U.S.
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ A woman who authorities say supervised a top cocaine-trafficking family on Friday became the first Bolivian to be extradited to the United States on drug charges.
Bolivian anti-drug police gave Asunta Roca Suarez to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, who flew her out of Bolivia on an agency plane to face charges of cocaine trafficking.
Roca Suarez, 33, was accompanied to the airport by her two children, a lawyer and a large contingent of reporters and police. She told onlookers she was innocent.
Bolivia’s Supreme Court authorized her extradition July 1 under a 1900 treaty drafted to extradite Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the bank robbers, who later died in a shootout with the Bolivian army.
The court rejected the extradition of Roca Suarez’s mother, Blanca Suarez Gomez, who also faces cocaine trafficking charges in the U.S.
Timothy Smith, spokesman at the U.S. Embassy, said the United States was pleased with Roca Suarez decision ″but regrets that the ruling was not favorable in the second case.″
Blanca Suarez Gomez is ill and has told the press she would not survive extradition.
Roca Suarez is the sister of Jorge Roca Suarez, once considered the top cocaine trafficker in Bolivia and now in a California jail facing drug charges.
Her uncle Roberto Suarez Gomez is serving 15 years in prison for cocaine trafficking in Bolivia. Known as the King of Cocaine, he was considered the country’s top trafficker in the early 1980s.
″The Roca Suarez family ran a major cocaine trafficking ring with the complicity of the Colombian Medellin Cartel that produced and sold tons of cocaine and transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to Bolivia and Colombia,″ said Gonzalo Torrico, undersecretary of the Interior.
The U.S. Government requested Asunta Roca Suarez’s extradition in August.
In a document presented to the Bolivian foreign ministry, it said she had ″a supervisory role in the Jorge Roca Suarez organization,″ which ″depended on her to execute orders regarding all aspects of cocaine trafficking.″
U.S. officials said she supervised the movement of millions of dollars of drug earnings from California to Bolivia.
They said customs agents in Miami in 1987 found a shipment of home appliances stuffed with millions of dollars sent by Roca Suarez to her brother and mother, who have U.S. residency.
The 1900 treaty did not include drug trafficking as a crime subject to extradition. U.S. government attorneys, however, argued that a 1988 U.N. treaty signed by both countries made it apply.
Former Interior Minister Luis Arce Gomez and his assistant, Erland Echeverria, were turned over to U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents in 1989 and flown to the United States, but without following a formal extradition request.
The Supreme Court denounced the actions as illegal.