Solidarity activists visit Colombian peace talks demand release of Simon Trinidad
Fight Back! interviewed James Jordan, with the Alliance For Global Justice in Tucson, Arizona. Jordan recently returned from a solidarity delegation to the Colombian peace negotiations taking place between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba. The FARC-EP want their peace negotiator Simon Trinidad at the talks.
Fight Back!: What is the status of the peace talks between the FARC-EP and the Colombian government?
James Jordan: They are continuing, despite the efforts of opponents to derail them. On the one hand, there have been attacks by the Colombian Armed Forces trying to provoke the FARC-EP to break its unilateral cease-fire. The FARC-EP has said they would react defensively to actions by the military and have done so recently. However, despite all this, neither side has walked away from the table. Additionally, the extreme right wing has been undertaking a campaign of public slander as well as outright paramilitary assaults aimed at sabotaging the negotiations. But time and time again, the popular movements rebuff the right wing. As far as the negotiations go, the FARC insurgents and the government have reached partial agreements on rural development, political participation and solving the illicit drug trade problem. They are still working on agreements on how to end the conflict and how to address issues regarding victims of the armed conflict.
Fight Back!: Why is the freedom of Simon Trinidad, also known as Ricardo Palmera, a political prisoner of the U.S., important?
Jordan: It's key to achieving peace in Colombia. Simón Trinidad is perhaps the most skilled and long-time negotiator that the FARC-EP has. In fact, the FARC have said that they will not finalize a peace deal that has not been reviewed and approved by Trinidad. Currently he is being held in solitary confinement at the Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado, extradited to the U.S. to face trumped-up charges simply by virtue of his association with the FARC-EP. The Colombian government negotiating team has said they support Trinidad/Palmera's repatriation to Colombia and participation in the peace talks. It's the U.S. government that is holding this up. President Obama should free Simon Trinidad.
Fight Back!: What is the role of the U.S. government in Colombia?
Jordan: The U.S. government actually sent a team of military advisors to Colombia in 1962 that called for the organization of the military and paramilitary death squads to attack farming villages and autonomous zones, and to commit acts of “terrorism” – their words, not mine – against the civilian population. That was two years before the modern civil war even started! Since then, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to support war and repression in Colombia, including $9 billion since 1998 for Plan Colombia, a war strategy developed on U.S. advice and oversight.
Fight Back!: What is the role of the U.S. government in the peace talks?
Jordan: I already spoke about the negative results of the U.S. government holding Simon Trinidad. The U.S. government is actually holding a number of FARC-EP soldiers as well as paramilitary members, basically violating Colombia's own sovereignty for political reasons. Jailing the insurgents in the U.S. interferes with the whole negotiation process. Holding these paramilitaries interferes with ‘truth telling’ commissions and stops investigations of ties between the death squads and right-wing political figures. If the U.S. really wants to help the peace process, they should repatriate both the insurgents and the paramilitaries to Colombia. And otherwise, the best thing the U.S. can do is stop funding war and not interfere with the peace talks – in other words, the U.S. should just get out of the way.