Medellin cartel member surrenders after decrees

December 19, 1990|By Ana Arana | Ana Arana,Special to The Sun

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, a top member of the Medellin cartel wanted for extradition to the United States, surrendered to Colombian authorities yesterday, after two government decrees that guarantee he will be tried in Colombia. He is the first of several hundred drug traffickers expected to surrender in the next few weeks.

Mr. Ochoa, 33, is the youngest of the three Ochoa brothers, who along with Pablo Escobar are considered the top drug barons in the Medellin cartel.

Mr. Ochoa is accused in the United States of drug trafficking and of involvement in the 1986 killing of Barry Seal, a Drug Enforcement Agency informant. He has no pending warrants in Colombia.

The Ochoa family filmed the entire surrender and passed the films on to local television news teams.

In a statement, Mr. Ochoa said, "I have decided to turn myself in independently." His letter also said the government decrees were not conciliatory enough.

The government of President Cesar Gaviria enacted two decrees since September that laid the groundwork to allow the surrender of known drug traffickers.

After the first decree, Mr. Ochoa sent two letters asking for further explanation.

Lawyers for the cartel said the first decree was not explicit enough. The proposal required a full confession of all crimes, in order to guarantee no extradition to the United States, and the need to incriminate other partners in crime in order to get lower sentences.

The decree issued Monday only required the confession of one crime that would lead to a trial and a sentence. The decrees guarantee there will be no extradition to the United States, lower sentences to traffickers who surrender, and special high-security jails.

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