Invoking an extradition treaty signed to seek the return of Butch Cas-sidy and the Sundance Kid, the State Department asked Bolivia to extradite Roberto Suarez Gomez, the notorious Bolivian "king of cocaine," to the United States, a department official said Friday.In La Paz, Bolivian Foreign Minister Guillermo Bedregal said the U.S. request for the extradition of Suarez, who was captured Wednesday in a raid on his remote ranch, "will be analyzed obviously with the utmost detail and care from a legal standpoint, avoiding any possible political pressure."
However, Bolivian officials had said Thursday he would be returned to prison in Bolivia to complete a 12-year term there and would not be extradited.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Mark Jacobs in La Paz said the extradition request is being discussed with the center-right government of President Victor Paz Estenssoro "at the highest level." He declined to elaborate.
Suarez, a flamboyant one-time rancher known as the "king of cocaine," was a kingpin of Bolivia's booming narcotics industry in the late 1970s and early 1980 before he was muscled out by ambitious underlings once he became addicted to cocaine, narcotics experts say.
He was a fugitive from a drug-trafficking sentence in Bolivia before his capture and is under indictment in Virginia on narcotics charges, the State Department official said.
"We formally requested extradition of Suarez on Friday," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
The United States and Bolivia have a bilateral extradition treaty dating back to 1901 - a document signed to seek the return of a gang of U.S. train robbers who had fled to Bolivia.
Two of the bandits, Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabough, were better known by their aliases, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Meanwhile in La Paz, authorities Friday presented Suarez, who is in his late 60s, at the heavily guarded headquarters of the narcotics police for photographs but no questions. However, he managed to give a brief interview before he was whisked away.
After about a minute of picture-taking, several photographers asked Suarez how he and his family were reacting to his arrest.
Looking up at the sky, Suarez said, "He who is with God is all right." In regard to his family, Suarez said: "With the grace of God, they are all right." Police then whisked him away.
Land-locked Bolivia is the world's No. 2 grower, after neighboring Peru, of the coca plant used in making cocaine.
Bolivian Interior Minister Juan Carlos Duran had said Thursday that Suarez would not be extradited to the United States because "he is a Bolivian citizen and must serve out his term in the country."
But the State Department official in Washington said the United States had received no communication to that effect. He said that if Suarez is imprisoned in Bolivia, the United States would wait until the end of his prison term before filing a new extradition request.