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Colombia extradites rebel leader to the U.S. on cocaine charges

Friday, September 21, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia -- A captured guerrilla leader was extradited to the United States on drug charges Thursday, a case that may complicate efforts to negotiate freedom for hostages held by his rebel army.

Erminso Cabrera is the first rebel to be extradited under a March 2006 indictment that accused 50 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, of supplying 60 percent of America's cocaine. Only two others are in custody and another is believed to have died in battle.

The extradition, announced by the police, comes as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is trying to broker a deal to swap scores of imprisoned rebels held in Colombia for 45 FARC-held hostages, including three Americans.

The U.S. Justice Department offered rewards totaling $75 million for the fugitive FARC leaders when it announced the indictment, which accused Cabrera of supervising the production and distribution of thousands of pounds of cocaine for the FARC in southern Colombia.

He is also alleged to be the brother of Jose Benito Cabrera, a member of the FARC's central governing body.

The earlier extradition of two other FARC leaders has complicated negotiations on a possible hostage release because the FARC is insisting that the United States free the rebels.


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