[Pnews] Support Colombian Political Prisoner Simon Trinidad Held at US Maximum Security Prison
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 30 10:10:21 EST 2018
Support Colombian Political Prisoner Simon Trinidad Held at US Maximum
By the International Campaign for the Release of Simon Trinidad on
January 29, 2018
In Colombia, like many other Latin American countries, peasant farmers
with little land have been oppressed ever since colonial times. Up until
the mid-20^th century Colombia also had a history of partisan political
violence between the traditional Conservative and Liberal parties. After
a period known as La Violencia that lasted, by most accounts, from about
1948 until the late 1950s or early 1960s, a pact was reached between the
Liberals and Conservatives that would prevent any other parties from
gaining political power for 20 years.
As in many other Latin American countries, such exclusionary political
arrangements were being challenged by leftist guerrilla movements. In
this context rural sectors that were affiliated with the Liberal
fighters during La Violencia joined with political activists inspired by
the Communist Party to form the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de
Colombia, or FARC, in 1964. While many guerrilla groups formed in
Colombia in the 1960s, most made peace with the government in the late
1980s and early 1990s. Yet the FARC was the largest, and the definitive
peace agreement with the FARC was not finalized until November 2016. The
FARC has since demobilized as a guerrilla force, laying down its weapons
and transforming into a political party, the Fuerza Alternativa
Revolucionaria del Común (FARC).
The story of Ricardo Palmera, also known as Simón Trinidad, is a story
at the intersection of the long-standing close relationship between the
governments of the United States and Colombia, and the 52-year insurgent
war from 1964 to 2016. Ricardo Palmera was a child of the upper class in
Valledupar, the capital of the department of Cesar, in Colombia’s
sprawling Atlantic Coast region. As a young man he became involved with
the community cultural center in Valledupar; he developed strong
interests in literature, history, music and film. While he studied
economics and then worked as a banker in his home town, he was also
concerned about the social inequities and injustices in Colombia.
In the mid-1980s he joined the Unión Patriótica, a political force that
included demobilized FARC members and others interested in broadening
Colombia’s political system, in the context peace initiatives by
then-President Belisario Betancur. However, the UP met with large-scale
state-supported violence, with as many as 6,000 members and supporters
killed from its inception to the mid-1990s, when it was effectively shut
down. In that context, Palmera decided to give up his job at the bank
and his life in Valledupar and to join the FARC guerrilla forces. That
is when he chose the name Simón Trinidad.
Once in the FARC Simón Trinidad was involved primarily in educational
work and providing political advice to the leadership. By the time of
the 1999 to 2002 negotiations under President Andrés Pastrana, Trinidad
was one of the FARC commanders who had the most contact with foreign
government and international organization officials who visited the
FARC’s /de facto/ capital during that period, San Vicente de Caguán.
After those negotiations collapsed in early 2002 the FARC continued to
rely on him for international contacts, and in 2003 and 2004 he was sent
to Quito, Ecuador, to pursue new leads for negotiations.
In February 2003 a small airplane had crashed over the jungles of
southern Colombia. Three of the four survivors of the crash were United
States military contractors. The FARC proceeded to take them prisoner
and then held them for over five years. In 2004, while in Ecuador,
Simón Trinidad was arrested by Ecuadorian authorities and then sent back
A cable from US Ambassador Woods, of January 6, 2004 to the US State
Department stated that the Colombian government wanted to extradite
Simón Trinidad to the United States but: “At this time, however, Simón
Trinidad does not face criminal charges in the U.S. The Embassy is
unaware of any pending investigations against … [him].”
The Colombian government began to work with the Bush administration to
come up with charges against Simón Trinidad. The United States added him
as a defendant to an existing case pending in Washington DC. The United
States then indicted him for terrorism and hostage-taking in relation to
three US military contractors who were captured by the FARC after their
plane crashed. (The US government classified the FARC as a terrorist
organization in 1997.) Simón Trinidad was extradited to the US on
December 31, 2004.
Simón Trinidad went to trial three times in Washington DC, once on the
drug case, and twice on the hostage taking case. The jury hung in the
drug trial (i.e. they could not reach a unanimous verdict) with most of
the jurors in favor of acquittal. The US attorney dismissed this case.
In Simón Trinidad’s first hostage-taking trial the jury also hung, and
the US decided to retry him. In his second hostage-taking trial the
jury indicated they were deadlocked, but the judge ordered them to
continue deliberations. The jury eventually convicted him on one of the
six charges: conspiracy to hold hostages. The only evidence the
government had was that the FARC had put out a communique in April 2003,
that if the government would agree to negotiate the exchange of
prisoners, Simón Trinidad would be one of their spokespersons, and the
fact that he had gone to Ecuador to pursue such negotiations. There was
never any evidence that Simón Trinidad had any role or responsibility in
the capture of the three US military contractors.
Simón Trinidad, after his conviction, was sentenced to 60 years in
prison. He has been held at the highest-level federal maximum-security
prison in the United States, which is in Colorado, much of the time in
solitary confinement and with limited contact with the outside world.
It is 2018 and the United States has yet to remove the FARC from the
list of terrorist organizations, even though a peace process, supported
by the United States, has concluded and resulted in the extinction of
the FARC as a guerrilla army and its transformation into a political party.
Palmera should be sent back to Colombia. He is costing U.S. taxpayers an
undisclosed sum (the Bureau of Prisons says it doesn’t have figures on
how much it costs to keep prisoners there) even though he was tried
mostly because he was a leading figure in an insurgent group in another
country, not because he was personally involved in hostage-taking or
kidnapping, or any other crime directed against anyone in the United States.
Please send letters to Simon Trinidad. He is in a maximum-security
prison with limited communication with his family and the outside world,
to let him know that he is not alone.
*Note that the letter has to be addressed exactly as follow: *
*Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda*
*Reg. Number 27896-016 *
*USP Florence ADMAX*
*PO BOX 8000*
*FLORENCE, CO 81226*
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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