Detenidos dos soldados de EE.UU. por traficar armas en Colombia

IBAGUE, Colombia – Two American soldiers accused of arms trafficking emerged from jail Thursday and were handed over to U.S. officials, but a top Colombian official tried to delay their deportation, saying a treaty granting them immunity might be invalid.
Inspector General Edgardo Jose Maya’s move reflected a widespread sentiment among Colombians that the two U.S. Army soldiers should face trial in Colombia. They were arrested Tuesday in connection with an alleged plot to smuggle more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition, possibly to outlawed right-wing paramilitary death squads responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Maya asked for a 24-hour extension before the two are deported so a 1974 treaty that purportedly gives them diplomatic immunity can be examined. The treaty might be superseded by Colombia’s 1991 Constitution and other laws, he said.
«In defense of the letter of the law, this Public Ministry believes it is important to analyze the situation in the face of the treaties and the supremacy of the Constitution,» Maya wrote in a letter to Colombian Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
The case is being closely watched by Colombians frustrated by accusations of law-breaking by American soldiers. The U.S. has given more than $3 billion in aid to Colombia and the mission of U.S. troops here is to help stamp out drug trafficking and guerrillas. Hundreds of Colombians accused of drug trafficking have been extradited to the United States to face trial as part of President Alvaro Uribe’s get-tough measures.
But Colombians were aghast in March when five U.S. soldiers accused of smuggling cocaine to the United States from Colombia were flown to their homeland and detained there. No details of that case have been publicly disclosed.
Ruben Arias, heading to his job as a supermarket cashier, said he hoped the two accused soldiers wouldn’t «be taken out of the country, like the other Americans captured with the cocaine. Who knows whether they will ever face justice?»
«The gringos should be charged here in Colombia,» said Jose Luis Villalobos, a 67-year-old retired engineer who was walking his dog.
The two American soldiers — identified as Alan Norman Tanquary and Jesus Hernandez — spent the night in a police holding cell in Ibague, a town of crumbling brick buildings in the mountains of west-central Colombia. On Thursday morning, they were hustled by authorities out a back door, eluding waiting journalists. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said they were headed to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
«The two U.S. soldiers are now in American custody and will be while U.S. officials attempt to ascertain more facts and determine how to proceed,» said Whitman, who declined to comment on specifics of the accusations against the soldiers.
The two soldiers would be flown to the United States «in the next few days,» a U.S. Embassy official said, adding that U.S. authorities were committed to a full investigation and would work with Colombian authorities.
The two were detained during a raid in a gated neighborhood of summer homes 50 miles southwest of Bogota near the Tolemaida air base, where many U.S. servicemen are stationed.
Authorities said the two had been in contact with a former Colombian Police Sgt. Will Gabriel Aguilar, who has been linked to paramilitary groups. Aguilar, another retired policeman and two other Colombians were also arrested, police said.
The ammunition was sent to Colombia by the United States under its Plan Colombia aid program aimed at crushing a leftist insurgency and the drug trafficking that fuels it, officials said.

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