- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:37
- Written by Alvaro Michaels
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were formed in the 1960s as a defence force of armed peasants fighting their displacement in the south of the country. During its long struggle for peace and equality, FARC has undertaken three peace initiatives – 1984-1990, 1999-2001 and 2007-2008. Each has been met with the cruellest of responses, at best simple rejection, more usually the killing of any FARC member who stepped forward to discuss political solutions to the 45-year violent class war, or enter into any negotiation. Thus in March, Commanders Raul Reyes and Julian Conrado were killed by US aircraft after phoning to arrange the unilateral release of prisoners of war.
The current plan to liquidate the leadership of FARC, announced as Plan Victoria, started in January 2007 and extends the Plan Patriota of Uribe’s first term (2002-6). It aims to defeat all opposition to US corporations pillaging Colombia’s oil, coal, and other natural resources. Plan Victoria is led by General Alejandro Navas, with 14,300 troops in southern Colombia and back-up from the air force and navy equipped with nine Brazilian Supertucano aircraft.
The US has exploited all attempts at negotiation by the FARC over the exchange of prisoners of war to trace and execute FARC negotiators. In 2005 the US extended its $5 million bounty on each and every member of the FARC secretariat to foreign bounty hunters. In March this year, Commander Ivan Rios was murdered and the bounty claimed.
On 6 March, a 200,000-strong march against state terror saw hundreds of Colombian activists for peace and justice threatened, abused, and accused by Uribe of ‘supporting the FARC’. This gave the green light to the death squads, who murdered the leader of the march and four other human rights spokespersons. Immediately afterwards, the Confederation of Colombian Workers (CUT) reported several assassinations and assaults including the head of its education section, the head of the banking employees union, a leader of the teachers union, and a researcher at a pedagogical institute.
Uribe’s US-funded killing machine has 200,000 military, 30,000 police, several thousand death squad killers and over a million middle and upper class Colombians who support ‘wiping out the FARC’ – meaning eliminating independent popular organisations. Uribe, in combining mass mobilisation with state terror, is the closest that Colombia has seen to a fascist ruler.
The battle in the US
Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad) is a peace negotiator for FARC. More than three years ago Palmera was in Ecuador to meet a UN official to discuss prisoner exchanges between the FARC and the Colombian government. US and Colombian agents kidnapped and extradited him to the USA in 2004 where he is held in solitary confinement. At his first trial the jurors did not find him guilty of any charge, so the Judge Hogan declared a mistrial. At the start of the retrial, Judge Hogan was caught collaborating with US Prosecutor Ken Kohl and had to step down. Hogan's replacement, Judge Lambert, refused to allow Palmera any witnesses, but let the US prosecutor use dozens – paid informants, convicted drug runners, and corrupt Colombian government officials.
Palmera was then found not guilty of four charges including terrorism and kidnapping, but guilty of conspiracy to kidnap three US military contractors in February 2003, captured as part of FARC’s war against the Colombian government. On 28 January this year, Palmera was given a 60-year sentence, made possible by adding a charge of ‘terrorism’ to the accusations. The contractors, who were held following an air crash, remain in FARC’s hands.
In an attempt to create a complete cover-up, Palmera was also separately charged with drug trafficking. Judge Lambert, who had already won his spurs with the establishment, faced a hung jury in the Federal Court on 21 April, and declared another mis-trial. Yet in order not to embarrass itself further, the US prosecution then asked that all drug charges be dropped. Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera stated, ‘The prosecution and the US government want to portray Ricardo Palmera as a criminal and criminalise the struggle of the Colombian people who are fighting for a just society free of foreign domination. They failed.’
Ricardo Palmera is held under ‘special administrative measures’ in solitary confinement, and not allowed any visits from family, friends, or supporters. The media is not allowed to interview him.
To write and congratulate Ricardo Palmera on his latest victory, address cards and letters to:
c/o Federal Public Defender for DC,
625 Indiana Ave, Suite 550
Washington DC 20004
FRFI 203 June / July 2008