When the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a historic peace agreement in 2016, members of the guerrilla group were guaranteed that they would not be extradited to the United States for alleged crimes already committed. .
The peace deal was celebrated as the end of decades of armed conflict and violent political conflict, but a Colombian lawyer saw an opportunity to exploit the deal and earn a few million dollars along the way.
Last week, US Judge Sean D. Jordan sentenced lawyer Maritza Claudia Fernanda Lorza Ramirez, 49, to seven and a half years in federal prison for a crime related to adding drug traffickers to the list members of the FARC to be avoided. US prosecutions The traffickers had been charged in the Eastern District of Texas and several districts in Florida.
Indicted by a grand jury in Texas in May 2018, Ramirez faces a federal charge of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting, the US Department of Justice said in a press release Thursday. A jury found her guilty in June.
Ramirez’s lawyer, Alexei Schacht, took issue with the government’s framing of the case from start to finish, describing the case as “an example of how the war on drugs has gone off the rails.”
“The dangerous large-scale drug dealers whom my client sought to obstruct have testified against her, and they will be released early from prison as a result,” Schacht told the Observer by email. “Meanwhile, none of them have been punished for hiring my client to try to obstruct their business. Not one. It’s a bizarre ending to a case that won’t make America any safer.” .”
“It’s a bizarre end to a case that won’t make America any safer.” – Alexei Schacht, lawyer
According to the original indictment, the Colombian lawyer told drug traffickers she could ‘bribe’ to have their names added to the list and help block any possible extradition to the United States, where they faced in cases before the Federal Court.
In exchange, the “large-scale” drug dealers paid the lawyer more than $3 million, according to court documents.
In one instance, Ramirez reportedly met with Juan Carlos Melo Guerrero in June 2017, promising to help quash any extradition efforts in exchange for more than half a million dollars. The attorney assured Guerrero that she was working with an agent from the Texas-based Drug Enforcement Administration on her case, according to court documents.
Although the political insurgency of the FARC sometimes overlapped with the narcotics trade, US authorities say Guerrero was never a member of the militant group.
The United States first requested Ramirez’s extradition in 2019, as reported by the Colombian daily time. She was arrested at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.
When the extradition was approved in 2021, then-Colombian Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz Orejuela reportedly said that Ramirez had provided false information to include at least six of the top drug traffickers on the list. FARC amnesty.
The Justice Department says its efforts interfered with ongoing US prosecutions and caused the defendants to refuse to cooperate with US investigators and authorities.
“Ramirez offered his services to Colombian drug traffickers, who were not FARC members, promising them that they could be fraudulently placed on the FARC list and avoid extradition and prosecution in the United States,” he said. U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston said in a statement Thursday.
“Not only did Ramirez’s actions pervert the rule of law and the peace process in Colombia, but they also impeded ongoing investigations that facilitated the flow of illegal drugs into the United States by protecting dangerous drug traffickers. “, added Featherstone.
“Ramirez offered his services to Colombian drug traffickers, who were not FARC members, promising them that they could be fraudulently placed on the FARC list and avoid extradition and prosecution in the United States.” – US Attorney Brit Featherston
The investigation included the involvement of Drug Enforcement Administration offices in Dallas and Miami and Colombian authorities, among other law enforcement agencies.
The FARC peace deal ended more than five decades of armed conflict in Colombia, with the militant group eventually disarming and confiscating its weapons from the United Nations.
In recent years, several suspected high-level drug traffickers from Latin America have been extradited to Texas and tried or convicted on federal charges.
In August, Nicaraguan citizen Raduan Omar Zamora Mayorga was extradited from Honduras to Texas, where he faces trial on charges related to his alleged manufacture and distribution of cocaine he knew would be sold to the states. -United.
In May, former Mexican Gulf Cartel leader Mario Cárdenas Guillén was also brought to Texas to stand trial on charges related to the alleged distribution of cocaine in the United States.
In October 2021, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant sentenced Wilson Wilfredo Luargas-Garcia, a Guatemalan citizen, to life in prison in a case involving charges related to pumping drugs to cartel networks in South and Central America and close collaboration with armed guerrillas. , including the FARC.