By Kyle Elphick
Seusis Hernández Solarte, a Colombian rebel turned politician and member of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force Party, was arrested by U.S. officials in his home country on April 10 for drug trafficking charges, according to The New York Times.
Solarte was caught overseeing the transport of approximately 11 tons of cocaine out of Colombia, according to CNN.
The drugs are valued at over $320 million, according to The New York Times.
“As alleged, these defendants conspired to ship thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to the streets of the US,” said American attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a statement, according to CNN. “Thanks to the investigative work of the DEA, they are now under arrest and face significant criminal charges.”
As a former commander of the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC, Santos and his associates have a history of exporting outlawed substances and running international drug rings, according to The Guardian.
The arrest comes as a surprise to many. Last June, Solarte and his fellow former rebels signed a peace deal with the Colombian government, granting them immunity from their past crimes and involvement with the drug trade. The agreement also forced the group to agree to stop all future drug trafficking efforts, according to The Guardian.
“The accords are clear,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to The New York Times. “Whoever commits a crime after the signing of the deal will be sent to the courts for the new crimes committed.”
The unexpected arrest demonstrates the U.S.’s attempts to take down forces in the international drug trade, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, FARC framed the arrest as a coordinated attack on the party and its members.
“The judicial order issued yesterday by the US goes against national sovereignty,” read a statement released by FARC on April 17, according to CNN. “It also shows a lack of willingness from the regime to facilitate a true peace process.”
Colombian citizens are growing increasingly dissatisfied with FARC, according to CNN. Solarte was a candidate for the FARC party faction in Colombia’s congressional elections last month.
Solarte’s arrest deeply frustrated other members of the FARC political party, which has struggled to be seen as legitimate after the peace deal. Santos announced the arrest in a live television address broadcast to the whole country, according to The New York Times.
“The construction of peace requires the absolute commitment and respect for the law and the accords,” Santos said, according to The Guardian. “There can’t be any room for tolerance or weakness.”