August 01, 2008
CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Friday urged the United States to slap severe sentences on drug traffickers extradited from his country, in a rare rebuke from a staunch U.S. ally.
Uribe, who has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid to fight cocaine traffickers and leftist guerrillas, said negotiating short jail terms with traffickers in exchange for information often ended up mocking counter-narcotics efforts.
"We are concerned negotiations with drug traffickers means they are given sentences that are practically indulgent, they become a mockery," Uribe told Latin American leaders at a regional anti-drugs summit.
"The next stage in extradition we want to examine with U.S. officials is that any negotiation with extradited drug traffickers means they face a minimum severe penalty."
Uribe has been one of Washington's closest supporters and his government has extradited hundreds of suspected drug smugglers to the United States.
He was speaking at a summit attended by Mexico's President Felipe Calderon and other Latin American and Caribbean leaders who agreed to deepen international cooperation efforts, including sharing intelligence and attacking money laundering.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez failed to show up after his government cited security reasons for reversing his decision to participate. They gave no details.
Chavez, a White House foe who often blasts U.S. counter-narcotics efforts in the region, had earlier confirmed he would attend, but he sent a delegation instead.
Chavez has labeled the U.S.-led effort against drug trafficking a failure and an "imperialist" attempt to gain foothold in Latin America.
The Venezuelan leader has ended cooperation with U.S. drug agents over charges they were spying on his government. U.S. officials say Chavez has made Venezuela a haven for traffickers, charges he dismisses as propaganda.
Colombia remains the world's No. 1 cocaine producer despite more than $5 billion in U.S. aid. Mexico is now battling against cartels fighting over drug routes north and has turned to Colombia for possible lessons from its long fight against drugs