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Colombia Court OKs Extradition

September 13, 2000

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Colombia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the extradition of a suspected cocaine trafficker to stand trial in the United States.

Pending President Andres Pastrana’s approval, Milton Perlaza would become the fourth Colombian delivered to U.S. authorities in nine months, following a decade-long ban on extradition.

The handovers have resumed despite traffickers’ threats of retaliation and some critics who say Colombia is forfeiting its sovereignty. But the policy is applauded in Washington, which is providing the South American country with $1.3 billion to battle drug trafficking.

Perlaza, who was arrested in February 1999 along with 18 alleged members of the Los Niches cocaine ring, faces drug smuggling charges in the Southern District of New York, Supreme Court spokesman German Gomez said.

In July, Pastrana extradited alleged Los Niches member Orlando Garcia to face cocaine smuggling charges in New Jersey. The gang’s purported kingpin, Jorge Asprilla, is in a Bogota prison and also faces a U.S. extradition request.

Colombia stopped extraditing nationals in 1991 after a wave of cartel bombings and assassinations cowed politicians into banning the practice in a constitutional reform.

Colombia’s Congress reversed that decision under U.S. pressure in 1997, paving the way for extradition to resume.

Colombia supplies an estimated 90 percent of the world’s cocaine and is a major source of heroin sold in the United States.

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