Colombia extradites accused drug kingpin to US

Daniel Rendón Herrera has been extradited to the United States. (AFP pic)

BOGOTÁ: Colombia on Monday extradited to the United States a former right-wing paramilitary leader who is accused of having headed one of the country’s largest drug cartels.

Daniel Rendón Herrera, also known as “Don Mario,” was handed over to agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, and “is en route to the United States,” said Colombia’s police chief General Jorge Nieto.

A former leader of Colombia’s “united self-defense forces,” the right-wing paramilitary groups that formed to fight Marxist rebels, Rendón is due to appear before a US federal judge in New York on drug trafficking charges.

Rendón was captured in a jungle raid in 2009 but the Supreme Court initially ruled that he could not be extradited until he had taken part in the country’s reparations process, which provides a degree of amnesty for former fighters who testify about crimes committed during the country’s half-century of civil war.

Rendón had commanded a paramilitary outfit in the Orinoquía region of Colombia before forming one of the most powerful and feared drugs cartels in the country, known as the Gulf Clan.

The self-defense groups had been formed in the 1990s to fight the Marxist guerillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and were disbanded in 2006 during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe.

The FARC signed a final peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, but the country remains the world’s leading supplier of cocaine, much of which is smuggled to the United States, the world’s leading consumer of the drug.