Colombian traffickers call U.S. justice system unfair


BOGOTA, Colombia -- Drug traffickers addressed a communique to U.S. Ambassador Thomas McNamara yesterday, charging that the U.S. justice system is inflexible where Colombians are concerned while it offers deals to U.S. citizens involved in drug cases.

Signed "The Extraditables," the name the traffickers adopted when the Colombian government began an anti-drug campaign last year, the message, sent by fax to major local news agencies, is the first ever directed to a representative of the U.S. government.

There is fear here that Washington could torpedo President Cesar Gaviria's new policy for dealing with drug traffickers, which guarantees that they will not be extradited to the United States if they surrender and confess to at least one crime leading to trial and sentencing in Colombia.

Although public statements from Washington have been conciliatory, the government here has shown signs of uneasiness in recent days over U.S. news accounts describing the new drug policy as negotiations between the government and the traffickers.

The government denies it is negotiating, saying it is only engaging in a "sort of" public communication effort with the traffickers.

Yesterday's communique came as several prominent Colombians were saying the government should not worry about international opposition to its new policy, if it puts a halt to violence in the country.

"The United States, which leads international opinion, lost its moral authority to criticize Colombia, or accuse the Colombian government of acting with leniency with drug traffickers, after such events as that of the mayor of Washington," former President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, told RCN radio in an interview to be aired today. Excerpts of the interview were printed yesterday in the daily El Tiempo.

President Lopez is a member of the "Notables," a group of prominent Colombians that has met with representatives of the Medellin Cartel and passed messages to the government.

The traffickers' communique said: "The people of Colombia know about the discrimination and the human rights violations suffered by Colombian citizens at the hands of United States authorities."

The Extraditables accused the United States of being a pioneer in making deals with drug traffickers, but only if they are U.S. citizens.

Saying that in the past the United States has negotiated with major Mafia figures such as Lucky Luciano, the traffickers asserted that major U.S. traffickers never serve a jail sentence if they inform on Colombians. U.S. traffickers "are freed on bail. . . . You believe in their words and even take them to testify before your Congress," the communique said.

"How long was the mayor of Washington, D.C., in jail?" the message asked rhetorically, a reference to the fact that Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. was convicted of only one misdemeanor count despite strong evidence he had used crack and cocaine repeatedly while in office.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. Embassy to the communique.

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