[Pnews] Free FARC negotiator Simon Trinidad - For President Obama, the time to act is now

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 24 19:38:50 EDT 2015

24 September 2015


*For President Obama, the time to act is now, and it is likely to add 
momentum to the peace process*

September 24 marks the day one year ago when the National Victims Table 
was set up as an important part of the Colombian peace process. Exactly 
one year later, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s 
Army (FARC-EP) and the Colombian government of Manuel Santos are 
announcing an agreement on victims and justice, a bilateral ceasefire, 
and a signing date for the peace agreement.

It is a big step forward for the Colombian peace process, with the 
issues of prisoners, setting aside arms, and then implementation to be 
agreed upon next. Although the number of Colombian political prisoners 
is around 7000, there is one prisoner who stands out because he is held 
under cruel and unusual circumstances. That is FARC negotiator Simon 
Trinidad (aka Ricardo Palmera).

Held for 11 years as a political prisoner of the U.S. Empire, the 
65-year-old Trinidad is in solitary confinement at the Florence Supermax 
in Colorado, the “Guantanamo of the Rockies.” Trinidad is a good man who 
embodies the struggle of the Colombian people for freedom, and the FARC 
say that without him, they will not sign an agreement.

It is President Barack Obama who can set Simon Trinidad free, to take 
his rightful place at the Colombian peace negotiations. President Obama 
can send a loud and clear message that the U.S. backs the peace process. 
For President Obama, the time to act is now, and it is likely to add 
momentum to the peace process.

Earlier this week, I marched with thirty-five activists from nine U.S. 
cities on a rural highway in the Rocky Mountains to demand, “Free Simon 
Trinidad! Peace for Colombia!” We marched to the modern underground 
dungeon where prisoners can be held with no human contact for years on 
end. Across from the guardhouse of the Colorado supermax, we held signs 
saying, “President Obama free Simon Trinidad!” and “Send Simon Trinidad 
to peace talks!”

As we marched back up Highway 67 to the small town of Florence, I kept 
thinking how strange it is, surreal in fact, that our efforts to end the 
U.S. war and intervention brought us to this place. The scenery is 
beautiful and breathtaking, but when you think of the men being held 
underground with no access to sunlight or fresh air, and no other human 
to talk to, the prison seems doubly vicious, consciously dehumanizing. 
Only the strongest of people, someone like Simon Trinidad, can persevere 
under these conditions.

With September 24 being the starting date of the National Victims Table, 
that date has great significance for me and my friends who organize 
solidarity with Colombia and Simon Trinidad in particular. For I am one 
of the Antiwar 23, raided by the FBI in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Grand 
Rapids, five years ago today. Over 100 FBI agents raided seven homes, 
scaring our children, and taking away our computers, phones and boxes of 
whatever else they wanted. When I left our house to write a press 
release, I realized I was being followed. I drove to my wife’s job where 
the FBI subpoenaed us to the grand jury in Chicago. It was shocking. 
Like all of the Antiwar 23, we refused to appear. No witch hunts for us.

I don’t like to think of myself as a victim, but the U.S. government did 
target us because of our effective organizing. The U.S. government 
claimed the Antiwar 23 were sending money and providing material support 
to the FARC and PFLP. The FBI said we faced 15-year prison sentences. 
However, when the U.S. government spy could not find any evidence, she 
and her FBI handlers attempted to create a crime. It did not work. We 
are still organizing solidarity, such as the campaign for a Palestinian 
American women’s leader “Justice for Rasmea Odeh”.

Over time we learned that the U.S. government political repression began 
when we protested outside the four trials of Colombian revolutionary 
Simon Trinidad. Our small group of solidarity activists did our part to 
expose the injustice of the four trials of Simon Trinidad and the U.S. 
government was angry with us. We protested and reported to the media on 
the unfair procedures and rulings. We were there in the courtroom when 
the cheating Judge Hogan was forced to step down after the first trial. 
We helped turn what should have been the triumph of the Empire, into a 
shameful display of corruption.

Today, I find September 24 to be a day for reflection and for 
rededication to the cause of stopping U.S. war and intervention in 
Colombia and everywhere else too. Plan Colombia is a colossal failure 
and needs to be brought to an end. We will continue to act in solidarity 
with the people of Colombia for a lasting peace with justice. We say 
“Free Simon Trinidad! Peace for Colombia!” Now is the time for President 
Obama to act.

Tom Burke is the spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo 
Palmera (Simon Trinidad)

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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