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Colombians Sent to U.S. to Face Charges

September 17, 2005

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Seventeen Colombians, including the alleged accountant for the Cali cocaine cartel, were sent to the United States to face drug-related charges, the police said Saturday.

Luis Eduardo Cuartas and the others were put on a U.S. government plane Friday night in Bogota, the Colombian National Police said in a statement. The plane was to drop off the suspected criminals in five U.S. cities, which the police did not name.

Cuartas was captured in Colombia’s third-largest city of Cali in 2003. According to police, he ``controlled finances and accounting″ for the Cali cartel, a drug trafficking organization that made billions of dollars since the 1970s smuggling cocaine to the United States before it was mostly dismantled in the late 1990s.

He is charged in a south Florida court with conspiring to possess, import and distribute cocaine, said the police statement.

Since taking office three years ago, hardline Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has extradited more than 200 suspected criminals to the United States, more than any previous president.

During the 1980s, Pablo Escobar and other leaders of the Medellin cocaine cartel set off bombs in Colombia’s cities and assassinated public figures in their bloody campaign to avoid extraditions to the United States. But recent extraditions of major drug figures, including the Cali cartel founders Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, have produced such violence.

Colombia is the world’s No. 1 producer of cocaine and the United States is the world’s main consumer.

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