BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Colombia's justice system was on trial as furious U.S. officials railed against the corruption and lax security that allowed a billionaire drug kingpin to flee jail.

The United States said Friday that the escape of Jose Santacruz Londono, the No. 3 man in the Cali drug cartel, will affect its decision in March on whether to certify Colombia as an ally in fighting the drug trade.

``Santacruz's escape is just one more example of the power of narco-corruption in Colombia,'' the State Department said in a statement.

Santacruz drove out the main gate of a Bogota prison Thursday in a car that resembled one driven by prosecutors, presumably with the aid of accomplices on the inside.

The escape recalled the 1992 flight of Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin cartel, from a luxury prison where he allegedly ordered murders and directed drug shipments. Security forces killed him a year later.

For years, U.S. officials have urged Colombia to allow extradition because they believed Colombia's justice system was too corrupt to try its wealthy drug traffickers. Colombia, however, forbids extradition of its citizens.

``Incarceration in a secure detention facility in the United States is what (Santacruz) and the rest of the Cali mafia fear the most,'' Thomas Constantine, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said in Washington.

Constantine expressed concern about prison security for drug kingpins in a Nov. 16 meeting with Colombia's defense minister. U.S. officials also believe drug kingpins do business from jail.

Thousands of police set up roadblocks across Colombia in the search for Santacruz. Authorities believed he would head for the southwestern city of Cali, the cartel's base, where he owns hundreds of properties.

The government offered a $2 million reward for his recapture.

Colombia, source of most of the world's cocaine, could lose U.S. aid if it fails to keep its anti-drug certification.

President Ernesto Samper, however, cited last year's arrests of several of drug kingpins.

``There is no government in the world that has done so much against drug trafficking in so little time,'' said Samper, who has faced allegations his election campaign accepted millions of dollars from the Cali cartel.

Santacruz has been linked to drug trafficking since the 1970s and has been indicted in several U.S. cities.

He is believed responsible for the 1992 killing of journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, who was investigating cartel operations in New York, as well as the 1989 murder of a Colombian state governor.

Five other cartel leaders, including brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, were arrested last year and are in jail. Santacruz was arrested July 4.

A seventh, Helmer Herrera, has eluded capture for months. His lawyer said Friday that Herrera wants to negotiate his surrender.

Police were questioning guards at La Picota prison, where accomplices apparently helped whisk Santacruz to freedom.

Cali traffickers, who took control of the cocaine trade from the more violent Medellin cartel, have long manipulated judges, prison guards and prosecutors with bribes and threats.

In a corruption purge last year, 670 prison guards were fired and 1,000 were transferred to other jails.