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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"Everyone is waiting to see who else he may implicate"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Colombia deports Brazilian 'drug boss'
Colombian troops being despatched to find alleged drugs trafficker Luis Fernando Da Costa
Colombia sent thousands of troops in pursuit of Mr Da Costa
The man thought to be Brazil's most powerful drugs baron has been extradited to his native country by Colombia, where he was captured on Saturday after a huge manhunt.

Luis Fernando Da Costa was deported to Brasilia amid heavy security late on Tuesday night, police sources said.

He is believed to control a majority of Brazil's illegal drugs and arms trade, and the Colombian authorities accuse him of links to their country's left-wing guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC.

If that link is proved, it could place Colombia's President Andres Pastrana in a difficult position, because he has vowed not to negotiate with drugs traffickers.

The FARC says it levies a tax on coca crops grown in areas under its control, but does not deal in cocaine, which is made from the plant.

Military manhunt

Mr Da Costa escaped from prison in Brazil in 1996. He was captured in Colombia on Saturday after a three-month search by thousands of troops.

Brazilian security forces in Mr Da Costa's old neighbourhood
Brazilian security forces moved to prevent a gang war
Brazil's defence minister, Luis Fernando Ramirez, said Mr Da Costa was the most important trafficker to be detained since the capture of the head of the Medellin drug cartel, Pablo Escobar, a decade ago.

In Brazil, security forces moved into Mr Da Costa's former stronghold, a poor area near Rio de Janeiro, to try to prevent rival gangs from seizing power in the wake of his capture.

The Colombian army has accused Mr Da Costa of supplying weapons to left-wing guerrillas in return for cocaine.

The FARC is going to have to demonstrate to the world that it is not dedicated to drug trafficking

Colombian President Andres Pastrana
Mr Da Costa has been paraded on Colombian television with members of the FARC.

The army and much of the public has opposed President Pastrana's two years of peace talks with the left-wing guerrillas of the FARC.

Peace process in jeopardy

Mr Pastrana has called on the guerrillas to prove they are not drug dealers and so save the country's battered peace process.

President Andres Pastrana
Andres Pastrana: No negotiations with drugs dealers
The rebels insist they only tax drug production, but evidence gathered during the hunt for Mr Da Costa appears to indicate he was supplying arms to the FARC in exchange for cocaine.

Mr Da Costa denies having any ties with FARC.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott says that, if such links were proved, it would show the guerrillas were processing and exporting drugs and were therefore drugs traffickers.

That would put the entire peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC in jeopardy.

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Americas
Colombia probes rebel 'drugs links'
22 Apr 01 | Americas
Colombia arrests 'drug lord'
29 Mar 01 | Americas
Hidden costs of Plan Colombia
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Thousands flee Colombian violence
14 Jan 01 | Americas
Eyewitness: Inside a cocaine factory
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