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The death of Piedad Cordoba, a loss for Colombia and Simon Trinidad

By Tom Burke

Simon Trinidad  with Piedad Cordoba. | Fight Back! News/Piedad Cordoba

With the death of Senator Piedad Cordoba, Colombia lost a great leader and friend of the people. For Simon Trinidad, Colombian revolutionary and prisoner of the U.S. empire, it was the sad loss of a valuable advocate.

Piedad Cordoba was found dead at her home by bodyguards on January 20, likely due to a heart attack. This was after a long life of struggle for the freedom of the Colombian people.

Piedad Cordoba was a labor lawyer, activist and politician who stood for the independence and sovereignty of Colombia. She opposed U.S. intervention and Wall Street rule. She wanted a Colombia that was free and served the needs of the Colombian people instead of foreign corporations and billionaires. Like Presidents Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, she was a Bolivarian revolutionary who wanted freedom from U.S. domination.

Last Saturday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro praised Senator Cordoba as one who “fought all her mature life for a more democratic society.”

As far back as 1997, Cordoba was a staunch opponent of laws allowing the extradition of Colombians to the U.S. She argued that Colombians uphold and rely on their own laws and courts to dispense justice, and that extradition violates Colombia’s legal sovereignty.

She was involved in humanitarian exchanges of prisoners between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army. Officially recognized as a go-between by the Colombian government of Alvaro Uribe, she was brave and effective. She worked with President Chavez of Venezuela and former Argentine President Kirchner on these projects.

Cordoba was a Colombian senator from 1994 to 2010, elected repeatedly with the left wing of the Liberal Party. Bold and outspoken, she publicly exposed Colombian President Uribe and many leading conservative politicians for having financial and political ties with the drug cartels and far-right paramilitary groups like the AUC. All this was known to the U.S. government.

The senator loudly opposed the U.S. war plan, Plan Colombia, which brought poverty, misery and death to Colombia’s countryside. Introduced to the U.S. Senate by Joe Biden in 1999, Plan Colombia spent more than $10 billion during the presidencies of Bush and Obama. Like other U.S. interventions, it was designed to roll back the gains of the expanding and advancing People’s Army. It also greatly expanded the war in Colombia, especially increasing the killing of trade unionists, peasant, indigenous, Afro-Colombian leaders, and many innocent civilians.

One of the more hideous results of Plan Colombia was the more than 1400 “false positives”. These were young people abducted and murdered by Colombian military officers, who were paid for every FARC rebel body they could produce. As both an intimidation tactic and financial gain, this wicked policy incentivized Colombian military leaders to coordinate the kidnapping and massacre of noncombatants, claiming them to be FARC members. Colombian military officers were trained in the United States at the notorious School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.

President Uribe retaliated against Cordoba by stripping her senate seat first in 2005, and again in 2010. The Colombian Supreme Court restored her rights in 2016 due to a lack of evidence against her. This lifted an 18-year ban from holding office and she ran for the presidency in 2018. The recent election victory of President Petro allowed her to reclaim her senate seat.

Senator Cordoba campaigned in Colombia to free Simon Trinidad, currently held prisoner by the U.S. in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. She visited Simon Trinidad in the Washington D.C. jail during the time when he faced four trials and was sentenced to 60 years in prison by a U.S. federal judge.

Trinidad was a FARC insurgent fighting a civil war in his own country, where the U.S. government was intervening to fund, arm and direct a war. The U.S. government was angry because three of its military contractors had been captured and held by the FARC. Trinidad’s imprisonment is seen as retaliation, even though the FARC has since signed a peace agreement and disbanded in 2016.

Piedad Cordoba lived a long life of struggle, dedicated to the people of Colombia. She was unstoppable: having been kidnapped by the AUC right-wing paramilitaries, exiled to Canada for over a year, surviving at least two assassination attempts, and still forcing the Colombian and U.S. governments to answer for their corruption and crimes. Piedad Cordoba’s legacy in Colombia will live on in the people’s movements for democracy and freedom from U.S. domination.

With the sad passing of Senator Piedad Cordoba, there will need to be a renewed effort to find leaders in Colombia who defend the sovereignty and independence of Colombia. The Colombian court formed by the Peace Accords, the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (JEP), has formally asked the U.S. government multiple times to allow Trinidad to participate. In September 2023, the Amnesty and Pardon Chamber of the JEP announced Trinidad as a member to appear before their transitional justice court. Weeks later Cordoba sent a letter to President Petro urging him to create the conditions for Trinidad to appear stating. “It would be very important for the country to know the truth about this former FARC member, who is willing to provide the whole truth.”

Perhaps President Gustavo Petro can honor Piedad Cordoba by finishing her work to “Free Simon Trinidad”? A fitting tribute would be for President Petro to request that President Biden send Simon Trinidad home to participate in the Colombian peace and reconciliation processes.

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