Aletho News


Time for President Obama to Free Simon Trinidad

By Tom Burke | teleSUR | September 24, 2015

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 re-dedication 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)

Background: Who is Simon Trinidad?

September 26, 2015 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , ,

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