President Barco Vows to Save Extradition Treaty With America
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ President Virgilio Barco is seeking to ensure a 7-year-old treaty under which 11 Colombians have been sent to the United States to face drug charges remains in force despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
The opposition Conservative Party closed ranks with Barco on Monday in his move to make sure that Colombian drug traffickers do not escape U.S. justice.
Last Friday, Colombia’s Supreme Court ruled against the accord because it was signed in 1979 by Minister of Government German Zea. Zia signed it while former President Juio Cesar Turbay was visiting the Dominican Republic.
Although the minister of government takes over the president’s duties when the president is out of the country, the Supreme Court said those duties did not include the signing of laws.
Colombia’s biggest newspaper, El Tiempo, of Bogota, ran a political cartoon that suggested the court made the ruling because of threats from drug traffickers.
The cartoon showed a Supreme Court justice, with someone holding a gun to his head, as he tried to decide the legality of the treaty.
Fourteen federal judges have been killed in the last two years, and drug traffickers are suspected in each case.
Barco signed the law himself late Sunday night, but there is still legislative debate over whether that makes the law legal or if another law might have to be passed.
Barco was ambassador to Washington and was the prime mover behind the treaty when it was negotiated. He has never avered in his support of Colombia’s attempts to stop narcotics traffickers.
Government ministers, congressmen and other political leaders were shocked at the Supreme Court’s decision, and Colombian newspapers were filled with criticism.
The Conservative Party, which has bitterly opposed Barco’s Liberal Party, backed the president in the dispute.
″There was no other way than to sign the law again and we give our support, which was requested by the president,″ the Conservative Party candidate in presidential elections earlier this year, Alvaro Gomez, told a news conference Sunday night.