WASHINGTON (CN) – Colombia has extradited to the United States an alleged leader of that country’s main revolutionary group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia, or FARC, on cocaine and conspiracy charges. Juan Jose Martinez Vega is one of 50 FARC leaders charged in an indictment that was unsealed in March 2006.
The FARC for years has funded its armed revolution by controlling and taxing cocaine production, forcing coca farmers to turn over their product to the rebel army. The FARC and right-wing death squads, known as auto-defensas civiles, or civilian self-defense patrols, have waged war upon one another for years, for control of the cocaine market.
Martinez Vega appeared in federal court here Monday. Two other defendants charged in the indictment already have been extradited: Erminso Cuevas Contreras and Jorge Enrique Rodriguez Mendieta. The lead defendant in the 54-page indictment is the aged Manuel Marulanda Velez, aka Tirofijo, or Sure Shot, one of the founders of the FARC. Uncle Sam has offered rewards totaling $75 million for information that results in arrests of FARC leaders, the U.S. Attorney’s Office here said.