A Colombian man who federal authorities say was a leader of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was convicted in U.S. federal court Thursday of conspiring to import thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to prosecutors.
Ignacio Leal Garcia, who was extradited from Colombia to the United States in July 2010, wil be sentenced on November 17 and could get 10 years to life in prison, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “In connection with its request for extradition, the United States has assured the Government of Colombia that it will not seek a life sentence for Leal Garcia,” the release said.
Leal Garcia, 41, is one of five alleged FARC leaders extradited by the United States on the same federal indictment, and the other four defendants already have been convicted, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
In the indictment and other court papers, prosecutors describe the FARC as being “a hierarchical organization comprised of twelve to eighteen thousand members” and as being a military-style organization responsible for production and shipment of more than half of the world’s supply of cocaine and nearly two-thirds of the cocaine imported into the United States.
Leal Garcia, who was captured in April 2009, was leader of a FARC section that controlled all cocaine production and trafficking in a 9,000-square-mile area near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, prosecutors said.
“To exercise this control, Leal Garcia organized regular meetings in the various municipalities … where he threatened death or exile for anyone who failed to cooperate with the FARC’s control of coca farming, cocaine production and cocaine trafficking in the region,” the release from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Leal Garcia supervised production and distribution of “thousands of tons of cocaine” intended for the U.S. market, the statement said, with profits from drug sales going to fund the FARC.
“Recognizing that the FARC could not survive without its cocaine revenue, the indicted members of the FARC leadership directed its members to attack and disrupt coca eradication fumigation efforts,” the news release added. “FARC leaders also ordered FARC members to kidnap and murder United States citizens in an effort to dissuade the United States from continuing to contribute to coca eradication.”
The FARC has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. While severely weakened in recent years, the leftist guerrilla group has continued to carry out kidnappings and attack security forces in the South American nation.
The United States and the European Union consider the FARC a terrorist organization.
This article was published by CNN on September 2, 2011.
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