Extradition Treaty with USA

On February 4, 1987, Carlos Lehder became the first drug trafficker to be extradited to the USA. Photograph: El Espectador

The extradition of Colombians to the United States sparked a war in which drug traffickers, driven by the fear of appearing in court in the USA, used terrorism as way of pressuring the Colombian Government to ban it.

Although Colombia signed the first treaty of this kind with Peru in 1970, it was extradition to the USA for trafficking narcotics, which started in 1888 and marked history.

Despite the age of this legal concept, its application in the 20th century, between 1986 and 1991, was not easy. With the fear of going on trial and being imprisoned by the U.S. justice system, Colombian drug traffickers put up a fight against the extradition by interfering in politics and committing targeted killings of political figures, judges, and police officers; as well as numerous terrorist attacks using sophisticated techniques that increased their destructive power.

The cocaine cartel did not start in Medellín, Colombia. It started on the streets of New York and Miami and in all the U.S. cities where crack is bought and sold.”. Nancy Reagan, October 25, 1988.

Their opposition was so radical that on November 6, 1986, drug traffickers from different parts of the country, including where the bosses of the Cali and Medellín Cartels were located, joined forces under the name The Extraditables. With the slogan “We prefer to be in the grave in Colombia than in a jail cell in the United States”, they demonstrated their fear of rigor of the U.S. justice system.

As well as shutting down laboratories for cocaine production, the destruction of runways and routes, arrests and killings, extradition was an important government tool in the fight against drug trafficking.


  • 1870
  • 1888
  • 1980
  • 1983
  • 30/04/1984
  • 06/11/1984
  • 12/12/1986
  • 14/12/1986
  • 13/01/1987
  • 04/02/1987
  • 16/01/1988
  • 25/01/1988
  • 18/08/1989
  • 1989
  • 12/05/1990
  • 30/09/1990
  • 09/1990
  • 09-11/1990
  • 30/04/1991
  • 19/06/1991
  • 27/06/1996
  • 16/19/1997
  • 28/11/2004
  • 11/03/2005
  • 1870


    Colombia signed an extradition treaty for the first time with Peru.

  • 1888


    Colombia signed the first extradition treaty with USA for the trafficking of controlled substances.

  • 1980


    After the coordination of Virgilio Barco, ambassador in the USA for the government of Julio César Turbay, Colombian Congress approved the treaty and included it in Law 27/1980.

  • 1983


    Although several extradition requests were ruled by the criminal court, President Belisario Betancur rejected them, saying that they went beyond the sovereignty of justice.

  • April 30, 1984

    April 30, 1984

    After a struggle to bring the drug traffickers to trial, Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla was assassinated by the Medellín Cartel. President Betancur, who had already negotiated with them without informing Lara Bonilla, announced the restoration of extradition.

  • November 6, 1984

    November 6, 1984

    The M-19 guerilla group took the Palace of Justice and burned the records of the extraditable drug traffickers. Several magistrates died in the attack, who were to rule on the Extradition Law.

  • December 12, 1986

    December 12, 1986

    After the legal offensive of the drug traffickers’ lawyers against Law 27/1980, the Supreme Court of Justice declared it unenforceable because the treaty was not signed by President Turbay but by Germán Zea, his delegated minister.

  • December 14, 1986

    December 14, 1986

    President Virgilio Barco reestablished the Extradition Treaty with Law 8/1986.

  • 13 de enero de 1987

    13 de enero de 1987

    En un intento infructuoso por asesinarlo, el exministro de Justicia, Enrique Parejo González, quien remplazó a Lara Bonilla y extraditó a 13 narcotraficantes, fue atacado por sicarios frente a la embajada de Colombia en Budapest.

  • February 4, 1986

    February 4, 1986

    Carlos Lehder, a member of the Medellín Cartel was arrested and extradited to the United States. He was sentenced to life plus 135 years, but because he testified against the dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega, they reduced the sentence to 55 years.

  • January 16, 1988

    January 16, 1988

    The Extraditables kidnapped Andrés Pastrana, candidate to be Mayor of Bogotá, in order to pressure the government to find a legal way out of extradition to the United States.

  • January 25, 1988

    January 25, 1988

    On Pablo Escobar’s orders, hitmen assassinated Inspector General of Colombia Carlos Mauro Hoyos during an attempted kidnapping.

  • August 18, 1989

    August 18, 1989

    By a decree of martial law and based on the court’s ruling the previous year, President Barco legally established extradition. Presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán and Police Colonel Valdemar Franklin Quintero were assassinated that day.

  • 1989


    (Without exact date. It is known that it was in the second half of the year.) As part of a draft constitutional reform, 19 members of congress, influenced by the drug traffickers, tried to introduce an article to hold a referendum so that the Colombian people could support or reject extradition. The government minister Carlos Lemos Simmonds managed to withdraw it.

  • May 12, 1990

    May 12, 1990

    After the presidential elections, which included a seventh ballot, promoted by university students so that voters could decide whether they supported constitutional reform, The Extraditables detonated three car bombs in Bogotá and Cali.

  • August 30, 1990

    August 30, 1990

    The Extraditables started a new escalation of terrorism to influence the decision that would be made in the National Constituent Assembly on extradition. That day, they kidnapped journalist Diana Turbay and five members of her press team.

  • September 1990

    September 1990

    President César Gaviria signed a decree that reduced the sentences of drug traffickers and paramilitaries who confessed to their crimes.

  • September – November 1990

    September – November 1990

    The Extraditables kidnapped Francisco Santos, Maruja Pachón, Beatriz de Guerrero, and Marina Montoya, who was assassinated.

  • April 30, 1991

    April 30, 1991

    The Extraditables assassinated Enrique Low Murtra, Minister of Justice for Virgilio Barco’s government.

  • June 19, 1991

    June 19, 1991

    With 51 votes in favor, 13 against and five abstentions, the National Constituent Assembly decided to include the prohibition of the extradition of Colombians in the new constitution. With his conditions met, Pablo Escobar turned himself over to justice the same day.

  • June 27, 1996

    June 27, 1996

    The government of Ernesto Samper rejects the extradition of the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, bosses of the Cali Cartel, because “it is not the only instrument we have to combat drug trafficking”.

  • September 16, 1997

    September 16, 1997

    Congress approved extradition. This occurred due to pressure from the United States imposing economic sanctions on Colombia because of the accusation that Ernesto Samper received money from the Cali Cartel for his campaign.

  • November 28, 2004

    November 28, 2004

    After being released in 2002, Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela was extradited, accused by the U.S. authorities of drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy.

  • March 11, 2005

    March 11, 2005

    Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela was extradited on the same charges as his brother.

During Samper’s government, 40 people were extradited; during Pastrana’s government (1998-2002), 72; and during Álvaro Uribe’s government (2002-2010), more than 600.


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