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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 06:48 GMT
Colombia extradites drugs lord to US
Vernal and two DEA agents
Alejandro Bernal arrives in Miami
By the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia

Colombia has extradited another top cocaine drug lord to the United States.

Alejandro Bernal, alias Juvenal, was part of the Medellin drug cartel when it was one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world.

But he had never been one to wear diamond encrusted Rolex watches or brandish gold-plated Uzi machine guns, opting for a lower profile.

It was for this reason he evaded capture for so long.

But his luck ran out in 1999 with his arrest during the joint US-Colombian operation Millennium.

And now, having run out of appeals, he has been handed over to the US drug enforcement agency and taken to Miami to face charges of smuggling up to 30 tonnes of cocaine to America a month.

Foreign terrorists

Last week the US said it wants to see the extradition of not just drugs traffickers but guerrillas and paramilitaries from the three Colombian warring factions on its foreign terrorist organisations list.

Cocaine hidden in bananas
Traffickers disguise the drugs in many ways
This, along with an announcement of further help for Colombia, already the third largest recipient of US military aid in the world, threatens to turn the country into another front line in the global war on terrorism.

Here in the guerrilla safe-haven of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombian (Farc), which is a primary target for the US, a rebel leader says America is using the tragedy of 11 September to settle old scores.

And several Farc leaders are said to head the US extradition wishlist.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"Alejandro Vernal's... luck ran out in 1999 with his arrest during the joint US-Colombian Operation Millennium"
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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