[Pnews] No Easing of US Vengeance Against Colombian Revolutionary Political Prisoner Simon Trinidad

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 21 11:25:07 EDT 2017


  No Easing of US Vengeance Against Colombian Revolutionary Simon Trinidad

by W. T. Whitney <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/gaguwe/> - 
September 21, 2017


Unable to receive letters, packages, and emails, Simon Trinidad, citizen 
of Colombia, lives in a tiny, _constantly illuminated_ 
<https://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=231349>, underground cell in a 
high-security prison in Colorado. From 2005 to 2016 Simon Trinidad lived 
in total isolation. Now he may, infrequently, receive four family 
members and two lawyers as visitors. Now, chained, he may occasionally 
interact with a handful of prisoners.

A U. S. court in 2008 sentenced the 58-year old Trinidad to 60 years in 
prison. He was charged with conspiracy to hold three U.S. contractors 
hostage – “_mercenaries of_ 
North American corporations engaged in spying,” according to one 
observer. The three hostages went free that same year.


One Colombian regards Trinidad as a “_clear symbol_ 
of the resistance and dignity of a people who had to rise up in arms to 
confront state terrorism.”  Another speaks of the “_debt we have_ 
as revolutionaries” and “the grief we feel that someone with the 
humanity of Simon is in that situation.”

The group Voices for Peace, joined by Colombian human rights 
organizations, has been agitating for Trinidad’s repatriation; the group 
cites humanitarian reasons and the peace process. It urged Colombian 
President Juan Manuel Santos to submit a request to President Donald 
Trump. But Santos’s office referred the question to the Foreign Ministry 
and from there it went to the Ministry of Justice and Law, where it 
stalled. An activist explains that, after all, Trinidad is only one of 
many “_extradited Colombians_ 
suffering in jails of the imperialist country.”

A new solidarity group emerged recently with support from prisoner 
defense organizations in Colombia and from Spain’s “Solidarity with 
Colombia Platform.” _The name for the group’s _ 
<https://www.las2orillas.co/se-lee-dignidad-se-escribe-simon-trinidad-la-campana-busca-la-libertad-del-comandante/> campaign 
for Trinidad’s release is: “One reads dignity and writes Simon Trinidad” 
(“Se lee dignidad, se escribe Simón Trinidad”). Organizers are on their 
way to gathering 100,000 signatures for a petition to the White House. 
The campaign’s website is _here_ <hhttps://www.libertadsimontrinidad.com/>.

The group organized and sponsored Mark Burton’s European tour for the 
prisoner that ran from September 4 to September 15. Burton, Trinidad’s 
U. S. lawyer, is part of the Simon Trinidad campaign in the United 
States. In Europe, he held informational meetings with parliamentarians 
of Spain, the Basque Country, Germany, and the European Parliament. 
Burton joined a forum staged by the United Nations Human Rights Council 
and in Geneva he discussed Trinidad’s case with diplomats of various 
countries. Along the way, he took part in public events and gave interviews

He told interviewer Javier Couso, a Spanish United Left deputy to the 
European Parliament, that “Simon Trinidad is a most important person in 
the peace process in Colombia,” and on that account must be freed. Later 
he remarked to Publico’s _interviewer Danilo Albin_ 
that, “I want to educate people about my client … I know that the 
European Union is involved in the phase of peace implementation in 
Colombia. That’s why I am looking for support for his freedom.”

Reviewing his trip in an email, Burton anticipates parliamentary 
statements and diplomatic initiatives on Trinidad’s behalf. Pro- 
Trinidad organizations are taking root in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, 
Alicante, and Geneva. A member of Germany’s Bundestag wants to visit 
Trinidad in prison.

*Serving the FARC *

Prior to joining the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 
1987 at age 37, Simon Trinidad had been Ricardo Palmera, member of a 
politically-connected and wealthy family. He prepared in economics and 
worked as a banker and economics professor in Valledupar, Cesar 
Department. Along the way Palmera became aware of unjust land use and 
distribution. He and others formed a left – leaning, local affiliate of 
the Liberal Party, after which he helped organize a group called Common 
Cause. He soon joined the Patriotic Union.

A peace agreement in 1986 between President Belisario Betancourt’s 
government and Marxist-oriented FARC rebels made that political party 
possible. Demobilized FARC insurgents, Communists, and other leftists 
belonging to the Patriotic Union ran for political office.  Soon they 
were being killed. Palmera had already suffered prison and torture for a 
week.  Comrades were leaving for exile, but Palmera “_decided to save_ 
his life but [also] to continue with his revolutionary ideals of social 
justice, and thus joined the FARC.”

The FARC began in 1964 when a group of small farmers fighting for 
agrarian rights organized militarily to defend against violence. As Mark 
_Burton explains_ 
new FARC recruit Simon Trinidad, formerly Ricardo Palmera, became “in 
reality an intellectual for that group.” He was in charge of political 
education, propaganda, and negotiations with international agencies, 
foreign governments, and the Colombian state. He had a lead role in 
peace talks with the government in /Caguán/ beginning in 1998.

In January, 2004, Trinidad was in Quito, Ecuador where he was to have 
asked United Nations official James Lemoyne to facilitate FARC plans to 
release hostages. Ecuadoran police, assisted by _t__he CIA_ 
arrested him and transferred him to Colombia. Colombian President Alvaro 
Uribe insisted on his extradition to the United States. Trinidad 
lingered for a year while a pretext was manufactured.   A former 
political prisoner explains that, “_Colombia’s Constitution_ 
prohibits the extradition of a citizen for political reasons” such as 
rebellion. Alternative charges were devised.

The U. S. government subjected Trinidad to four trials. Persuaded by his 
testimony, Trinidad’s first jury stopped short of convicting him on the 
charge of membership in a terrorist organization. A second jury did 
convict him of conspiring to hold the three captured U.S. agents as 
hostages, this despite the unlikely chance he would have helped plan the 
operation; he had no military-command responsibilities. Two subsequent 
trials declared Trinidad innocent of drug – trafficking.

For four years FARC negotiators insisted that Simon Trinidad join them 
at peace talks in Havana. The FARC is a political party now, and 
spokespersons say they need Trinidad’s negotiating skills for dealing 
with post – agreement problems. While the talks were in progress, 
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos indicated he was open to 
Trinidad’s return. After conferring with former U. S. Secretary of State 
John Kerry, FARC representatives were hopeful that the U. S. government 
_might cooperate_ 
But, “the Colombian government apparently never approached the United 
States with a formal request,” according to Mark Burton.

In Colombia Trinidad would be benefiting from the peace agreement. He 
would join other former insurgents in applying to the new Special 
Jurisdiction for Peace for amnesty.  He might _receive reparations_ 
as per the agreement, because his wartime partner and their child were 
targeted for murder.

*No end to conflict*

Old adversaries are at each other’s throats. Simon Trinidad figures as a 
stand-in for the revolutionary side, still under siege in Colombia.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, inveterate opponent of the 
peace process, leads the opposition to Trinidad’s release from prison. 
In one tweet typical of many such denigrating the prisoner, Uribe 
laments that “_Simon Trinidad added_ 
narco-trafficking to the money from kidnappings.” Opinion surveys 
suggest that at least a majority of Colombian adults agree with claims 
from Uribe – led right-wingers that the FARC _won’t comply_ 
with requirements of the peace agreement and claims too that 
high-visibility FARC leaders deserve imprisonment.

Nor have wealthy elites in the United States forgotten the cause they 
shared with counterparts in Colombia. To defeat the FARC, they provided 
billions of dollars in military aid, U. S. troops, and intelligence 
expertise and equipment.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio, intent upon 
keeping that memory alive, _has led in_ 
vilifying Simon Trinidad.

Revolutionaries in Colombia are speaking out.  For former political 
prisoner Liliany Obando, “_Simon has been_ 
man of integrity, a revolutionary, and a humanist and his cause on this 
road has been altruistic….Simon must inevitably be able to count on more 
hands and on the solid commitment of many people, abroad and especially 
in the United States, people who can be mobilized and exert important 
political pressure so that Simon’s repatriation can be achieved.”

On August 20 in Bogota, Colombia’s Communist party staged its annual 
festival for its Semanario Voz (Weekly Voice) newspaper. An editorial 
writer _celebrated the event_ 
<http://semanariovoz.com/simon-trinidad-heroe-nacional/> saying that, 
“It’s time now for Colombians who are living moments of change and 
national reconciliation to take on the job of broadcasting the life, 
history, and need for repatriation of Simon Trinidad. [He] has already 
gone from being a rebel of the FARC –EP to being a national hero.”

Jaime Caycedo Turriago, the Party’s secretary – general read a poem:

To Simon
The bright star you can’t see
hardly asks you
if any verse
flew off in the night,
If it came through the bars
And the regulations,
If it disappeared beyond the sea
And the empire’s walls.
Perhaps there’s no reply
To this question.
There will be silence and,
There will be uncertainty.
But here
On this shore,
Which is the shore of the world, There are millions who are pondering.
And they throw out hopes to the universe
That are shaking your bars.
There are millions of hearts
that are together on a shaft of liberty
Who are calling you back to your homeland,
And to freedom.

/*W.T. Whitney Jr.* is a retired pediatrician and political journalist 
living in Maine./

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