A day after the arrest of Seuxis Hernandez, best known by his alias Jesus Santrich, conservative opponents of the peace accord, including the front-running presidential candidate, urged authorities to investigate other members of the disbanded FARC rebel army for any continued involvement in the drug trade.
But Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a NY grand jury handed down an indictment after evaluating evidence, including videos and communications, that indicated Santrich and three other co-conspirators who were also arrested hatched a plan in the second half of 2017 to smuggle into the USA cocaine with a street value of $320 million.
The suspect was one of five former rebels with a seat in the lower house of Colombia's Congress.
"In addition to being a shameful subordination of the Colombian justice system, it's clear we're witnessing another set up by the distorted American justice system", the FARC said in a statement read Tuesday by Ivan Marquez, the rebels' chief negotiator during the peace talks. "It's a very bad message for the Colombian people, for the former combatants and for the peace that our country so badly needs".
Santrich, who joined the guerrilla movement within his 20s and gradually climbed to its principal control structure, was among those earliest rebel leaders to wager on peace.
Santrich was a member of the FARC's central high command, the members of which were indicted on drug trafficking charges by the U.S.in 2006.More news: State governor announces run for US Senate
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 detained have betrayed the values and the principles of the peace deal", Mr. Martinez said in a televised address alongside President Juan Manuel Santos.
The Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the FARC on November 2016.
Under the peace accord, repentant FARC fighters were required to confess their wartime crimes and pay reparations to victims to avoid jail. But they aren't protected for crimes committed after the December 2016 signing.
The FARC long funded their insurgency by leveling a "war tax" on cocaine moving through territory the rebels dominated.
However, the rebels consistently refused direct involvement in the business itself and rebel peace negotiators in 2013 denounced drug trafficking like a "scourge" that has "contaminated" the worldwide economic climate and also generated a global health catastrophe.
"Like addicts they just cannot quit the business", he included.