Traffickers Threaten Reprisals After Arrest of Carlos Lehder
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Colombia’s drug underworld has threatened reprisals for the extradition of billionaire Carlos Lehder Rivas to the United States on charges of trafficking, police and government spokesmen said Thursday.
Lehder was captured before dawn Wednesday at his rural mansion in northwest Colombia by soldiers acting on an anonymous tip and was flown to the United States on a U.S. Air Force plane, the Defense Ministry said.
Colombia qelivered Lehder to U.S. officials swiftly and the United States got him out of the country immediately, apparently to avoid a possible payoff or escape.
″Justice will always prevail,″ Justice Minister Eduardo Suescun said at a news conference Thursday. He said Colombia would hunt down all drug traffickers still at large.
Threats of reprisals came in telephone calls from people who identified themselves only as members of the ″extraditers group,″ high national police and the Foreign Ministry sources told The Associated Press. The group has claimed responsibility for previous attacks on officials.
The tip about the mansion said ″a big fish″ was there, but did not name Lehder, the Bogota daily El Tiempo quoted army sources as saying.
It said a jubilant police major, William Lemos, shouted ″Well, well, the Virgin Mary has fallen out of the sky 3/8″ as he read the name in Lehder’s passport.
Lehder is the first member captured of the so-called Medellin Cartel, which the Colombian attorney general’s office says smuggles 80 percent of the cocaine and marijuana entering the United States. He faces charges in Florida.
Since the government began approving extradition of Colombians to the United States three years ago, a justice minister, a supreme court justice, 20 other federal judges and a newspaper editor have been murdered.
All the killings have been blamed on drug traffickers.
The attorney general’s office set up special telephones and post office boxes to receive tips on the whereabouts of drug traffickers. Justice Minister Suescun said one of those led to the mansion near Medellin.