Former Colombian rebels blame US for leader's arrest

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Colombian authorities arrested a former top rebel peace negotiator on a US drug warrant Monday, delivering a major blow to the country's already teetering attempts to put a half century of political violence behind it.

The rocky road towards peace just took another bump in Colombia as authorities captured ex-FARC head Seuxis Hernandez, known through his alias Jesús Santrich, on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Prosecutor's Office said in a Monday statement that Santrich was in possession of 10 tons of cocaine worth $15 million that was going to be sent to the U.S. Because the arrest was done via an global warrant from Interpol, prosecutors said Santrich could be extradited to North America.

The arrest makes Santrich the first high-ranking leader in the peace process to be charged with criminal activity, and analysts said it is likely to have a range of implications for the nation's already fragile implementation of the historic accord.

The landmark peace deal between the FARC and Mr Santos's government was signed in November 2016, putting an end to a half century of conflict.

"This is the worst moment that the peace process has gone through", said the former FARC official Iván Márquez, according to the Associated Press.

'This is what the Colombian people demand.

The son of two school teachers, Santrich joined a local youth communist group as a student and entered the guerrilla movement in his early 20s.




Even before information on the arrest were known, FARC leaders condemned it because a setup that could endanger almost 7,000 demobilized rebel fighters' faith in the peace procedure.

Hernandez and his co-conspirators allegedly told the buyers that they had access to laboratories to supply the cocaine, to US-registered aircrafts to move the drugs and provided evidence of access to large quantities of cocaine.

"Those who were detained betrayed the values and principles of the peace accords", Martinez said, but he offered assurances that the legal rights of other rebel fighters who remain true to democracy will be respected.

The arrest stems under a week before President Donald Trump is set to go to Bogota for discussions with Santos by which US claims that Colombia's long standing support for the drug war flagged during peace talks is expected to feature prominently.

Under terms of the accord, rebels who lay down their weapons and confess their war crimes to special peace tribunals are to be spared jail time and extradition. "Who commits a crime after the signing of the final agreement, will be submitted to the ordinary jurisdiction for new crimes committed", he added.

Even the FARC extended financed their insurgency by leveling a "war tax" on cocaine proceeding through land the rebels dominated.

Colombia is now the world's largest producer of cocaine.

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