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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 06:13 GMT
Colombian baron re-arrested
By Jeremy McDermott
BBC, Colombia

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela
Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela walked free from prison in November
Colombian authorities have re-arrested the former head of the Cali drug cartel who walked free in November amid much controversy after serving only seven years in prison.

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was released last year for good behaviour - much to the disgust of the government and the horror of the United States.

Since then, the order from hardline President Alvaro Uribe has been to find something to put him back behind bars.

Known in the drugs underworld as "the chess player" for his ability to outwit opponents, Rodriguez Orejuela did not see his re-arrest coming, as authorities easily found him and he put up no resistance.

The government had tried everything it could to prevent his release for good behaviour last November and the orders from President Uribe to the Attorney General's office were "get him back behind bars".

And the prosecutors have obliged, producing a charge that the Cali couple - Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel - had been involved in the smuggling of 150 kilograms of cocaine to the US via Costa Rica in 1995.

He is likely to be convicted as his brother Miguel, who is still behind bars, has already pleaded guilty to the same crime.

US interest

The recapture of Rodriguez Orejuela will be welcomed by the United States which expressed its displeasure at his release last year.

US authorities are desperate to extradite him - he faces a battery of charges in America for smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine.

But all these crimes pre-date 1997 when extradition was reintroduced in Colombia, and so it seems he may still escape US justice.

Colombian drug lord 'to walk free'
07 Nov 02 |  Americas
Colombia halts drug lords' release
02 Nov 02 |  Americas

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