Simon Trinidad, Imprisoned, Connects with Colombian Peace Process
Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simon Trinidad,” is a political prisoner and more. Even as such, his sixty-year sentence and constant solitary confinement are extraordinary. Post- sentencing legal services are not always available. His mail is blocked, visitors are limited, and he is shackled when they see him. Trinidad occupies a “Supermax” cell in the United States, in Colorado. In Colombia he’s an enemy of the state.
Simon Trinidad was a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with responsibilities for political education, financial overview, and peace negotiations. He participated with the FARC in talks with the Colombian government in 1998-2002. In Ecuador prior to his capture in January 2004 – with CIA help – he was preparing to meet with United Nations representative James Lemoyne to review the situation of FARC prisoners of war.
On being detained, Trinidad was moved to Colombia, and then on December 31, 2004 he was extradited to the United States. Colombia had asked U.S. authorities to request his extradition. The United States at the time had no outstanding charges against him and Colombian officials had to fashion allegations. Later Colombian courts convicted Trinidad in absentia, and he faces jail time there.
Trinidad, although imprisoned in the United States, remains a political force beyond prison walls. The FARC’s negotiations with the Colombian government to end civil war there began in Cuba in November 2012. The FARC still regards Trinidad as one of its leaders, and at the outset of the talks, the guerrillas named Trinidad as one of their five accredited representatives to the negotiations. In group photos he stands with other FARC negotiators as a life-sized “cut-out” image.
The FARC has repeatedly demanded his release from prison so he can serve as a negotiator. Rumors circulated recently that Colombian officials, listening to the FARC, are asking U.S. counterparts for Trinidad’s release.
Negotiators now dealing with the post-conflict fate of guerrilla leaders are discussing issues having to do with imprisonment and extradition. Critics say Colombia’s tendency to extradite prisoners to the United State States is problematic for Colombian sovereignty. Simon Trinidad is a case in point.
Trinidad personifies another point of contention. Are FARC soldiers criminals or are they soldiers fighting in a war? Terms bandied about such as “banditry,” “terrorism,” and “drug-running” suggest the former. But to the extent that the FARC’s anti-government rebellion led to internal armed conflict, FARC guerrillas are fighting a civil war.
The latter view squares with international law, which recognizes the right of revolution. If a peace settlement accepts that notion, then prisoners are exchanged and they return home. Meanwhile, it’s illegal under international law for civil war combatants like Trinidad to be sent off to a foreign land.
U.S. accusers said Trinidad helped the FARC kidnap three U.S. contractors after their reconnaissance airplane had been shot down by FARC guerrillas in 2003. The U. S. claim is that the hostages were civilians who were fighting drug traffickers. But their FARC captors saw them as military contractors deployed under Plan Colombia, the mechanism through which the U.S. military took on leftist guerrillas in Colombia. The contractors went free in 2008.
At his first trial, in late 2006, Simon Trinidad faced five charges. Three of them each carried the accusation of conspiring to kidnap one of the three captive contractors. Two more charges had implications for the so-called U.S. war on terrorism. Prosecutors charged Trinidad with membership in a hostage-taking conspiracy, also with providing “material support to terrorists,” namely the FARC. Conviction on either charge would have suited the larger U.S purpose of imprisoning adversaries anywhere who could be portrayed as “terrorists.” It was the time then when prisoners of war were morphing into “unlawful combatants.” In 1997 the U.S. State Department identified the FARC as a terrorist organization.
But Simon Trinidad told jurors about his life story and why the FARC was fighting. His presentation, even in translation, was convincing enough for jurors to refuse to convict him on any charge.
Then the Justice Department had to find a new judge for the second trial. The first judge had illegally talked with jurors to gain information about their deliberations that would assist prosecutors in the second trial. That trial ended with Trinidad being convicted on the single charge of conspiracy to take the contractors hostage. He was sentenced in early 2008. Two subsequent trials on allegations of narco-trafficking ended in mistrials.
Trinidad was a member of Colombia’s elite. When on December 5, 1987 Ricardo Palmera – he was not yet Simon Trinidad – left his home city of Valledupar, in Cesar department, to join the Caribbean Bloc of the FARC, he left behind a family, his bank- managing job, an economics professorship at a local university, and family assets which he managed – a cattle ranch and cotton and fruit- growing properties.
His father had been a respected lawyer, law professor, and Colombian senator for the Liberal Party. His maternal grandfather had served as governor of Santander. The future prisoner attended a private secondary school in Bogota with a “strong social and democratic ethos.” He studied at a naval academy in Cartagena, where President Juan Manuel Santos was a fellow student. Trinidad graduated in economics from a private university in Bogota and obtained a master’s degree in business economics from Harvard University in the United States.
In Valledupar, Palmera/ Trinidad joined the “New Liberalism” party, which after 1982, locally at least, became “Common Cause.” That organization would later affiliate with the Patriotic Union (UP by its Spanish initials) which emerged following a peace agreement between the government and the FARC. Demobilized guerrillas, Communists, and other leftists entered electoral politics as U.P candidates. They achieved victories, and then fell victim to nationwide slaughter. In Valledupar in 1987, many of Trinidad’s Common Cause comrades died, one by one. Others went into exile. One of them, in her published recollections, described the climate of fear and desperation. Trinidad stayed.
The Colombian Army cracked down on Common Cause members in 1982. With others, Palmera was arrested, “handcuffed, taken … to Barranquilla in a cattle truck, deprived of sleep, food, and water for three days, subjected to cruel interrogation, and released after five days.” At his first trial Trinidad identified the murder of charismatic UP presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal on October 11, 1987 as a watershed moment. He’d had a meeting with Pardo Leal scheduled for the next day.
All of this is Trinidad’s story. His case is complicated, and for the sake of further elucidation, an interview conducted on March 21, 2015 with Denver lawyer Mark Burton appears below. Burton has recently undertaken to serve as Simon Trinidad’s lawyer in the United States. El Espectador reporter Maria Flores interviewed him in Bogota. Burton discusses Trinidad’s possible release from prison in relation to the peace negotiations.
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El Espectador: Is it actually possible the U.S. government might free “Simon Trinidad?”
Mark Burton: I think it’s really feasible, because the decision to put him at liberty is in the hands of President Barack Obama. Colombia needs Trinidad at the peace talks; he is a well-informed man, capable, and brings his experience of having been a negotiator at the Caguán [peace talks] during the government of Andrés Pastrana. The FARC has accredited him as one of its representatives and it’s crucial that he be in Havana.
EE: Is there a favorable atmosphere within the Obama administration for dealing with an eventual release?
MB: I can’t speak for the U. S. government, but I can certainly tell you in this regard that for Obama to have designated Bernard Aronson as a delegate to the peace process is very important. It’s a clear sign that the President of the United States supports the talks and to that extent I think there are great possibilities. Legally, just as Obama has the power to pardon somebody, he can also reduce a sentence. That would be the most effective way, although everything depends on overtures the Santos government makes.
EE: Have they looked at possible opposition from civil society in the United States?
MB: Look, last December, when the United Stated freed the three Cuban agents, there was a lot of noise, because the Cuban exile community in Florida is very strong. But Colombia is very different. In that sense, I don’t think the scenario would be particularly unfavorable.
EE: What possibilities might “Trinidad” expect in U.S. courts?
MB: He was sentenced to 60 years in prison thanks to pressure at the time from the Colombian government. Later he lost his appeal. But we are reviewing the case and looking at alternatives. I want to make it clear that it’s been very difficult for him to pursue his defense, because at key times there was no lawyer available for him to rely on. The public defender he had during the trial has maintained contact with him strictly on a basis of friendship and human rights. Beyond that, he’s been kept in absolute isolation now for 11 years. That violates the [United Nations] Convention against Torture.
EE: Do you share the theory that his trial in the United States had a political tinge?
MB: I think it was a set-up, of course. [Colombian President]Alvaro Uribe requested that the U.S. government ask for Simon Trinidad’s extradition. Because the United States told him that no charges were pending against him, the Colombian government looked for supposedly trustworthy information to use for extraditing him. He was never convicted because of drug-trafficking, never because of terrorism, but instead through what happened to some CIA contractors. He never knew them, and furthermore, they were deployed in a war zone. Uribe wanted to punish Simon Trinidad, and there are many reasons making one think this was a political trial.
EE: Aren’t you exaggerating to suggest that U. S. justice lent itself to fashioning a “set-up” for a guerrilla chief?
MB: George Bush and Alvaro Uribe were good friends. One couldn’t say they talked about all this over a cup of coffee, but there was an understanding between the two governments. Besides, no one can be extradited for political reasons.
EE: In Colombia people wondering about a possible settlement make the point that victims deserve justice. How do you respond?
MB: In this country there are many kinds of victims. It’s been brought up in the negotiations, for example, that political prisoners also have to be recognized as victims. The peace process is justifiably looking toward an end to armed conflict and to the possibility of social peace so that no one will be victimized any longer. Political considerations do exist that some want settled in the courts. Even though there are sectors in Colombia who want to continue the war, we believe Colombians support the process and that, in the end, Uribe and his friends will be in the minority. If you weigh the choice for a country like Colombia between having peace and having a prisoner in the United States, anyone can definitely see that peace is more important.
Support the Colombian Peace Process, Free Ricardo Palmera!
March 24, 2015
We support the Colombian Peace Process and the people’s movements of Colombia in the struggle for peace with justice. We call for an end to the repression of the Marcha Patriótica and other social movements and groups in Colombia now.
We demand an end to Plan Colombia
We oppose the U.S. interference and military intervention in Colombia, called Plan Colombia. We demand the U.S. government stop funding, arming, training, and directing the Colombian military. Bring the U.S. military advisors and troops in Colombia home now, and end the extraditions of Colombians to the U.S.
We demand the U.S. release Ricardo Palmera
Ricardo Palmera, popularly known as Simon Trinidad in Colombia, is a political prisoner of the U.S. government. Palmera is being tortured in solitary confinement in the Florence, Colorado supermax prison. Palmera beat the U.S. government in three out of four court trials.
As the negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the Colombian government continue in Cuba, Ricardo Palmera is needed in the process. Palmera participated in past negotiations, represents the people’s movement history, and is essential to the outcome. The FARC-EP is demanding Ricardo Palmera (Trinidad) be present at the peace talks table. For a lasting peace with justice in Colombia, the U.S. government must release Ricardo Palmera.
Mark Burton is the lawyer for Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera. Palmera is a political prisoner of the U.S., currently held in the Florence, Colorado supermax prison. Mark Burton is one of the few people allowed to visit and communicate with him. There is a campaign to Free Ricardo Palmera so he can take part in ongoing Colombian peace talks happening in Cuba. Ricardo Palmera is popularly known as Simón Trinidad in Colombia. For more information see www.FreeRicardoPalmera.org.
Fight Back!: Why is Ricardo Palmera a political prisoner of the U.S. government?
Mark Burton: Ricardo Palmera is a political prisoner as his extradition and prosecution were at the behest of the Colombian government for political reasons. It wanted to make an example of him to intimidate the opposition.
We now know from a cable, from U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, disclosed by Wikileaks, that President Uribe of Colombia asked the U.S. to extradite Ricardo Palmera in 2004. The U.S. government could not extradite him as there were no pending cases against him here. A case was then constructed by the Colombian and U.S. governments that allowed him to be extradited in December 2004.
Fight Back!: What are the conditions like for Ricardo Palmera in prison?
Burton: Mr. Palmera has been under Special Administrative Measures [SAM], while in custody from very shortly after his arrival in the U.S. in 2004. The SAM restricts his contact with people from outside, and inside, the prison, so he has been subject to excessive isolation.
Fight Back!: Why is it important to free Ricardo Palmera at this point in time?
Burton: The Colombian government and the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejercito Popular [FARC-EP] have been in formal peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba since August of 2012. There has been much progress reported in the peace talks and, perhaps for the first time in the history of the 50-year-old armed Colombian conflict, there is the possibility of a peace agreement.
Ricardo Palmera was an important peace negotiator in the last peace talks between the FARC-EP and the Colombian government in San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia from 1998-2002. Due to his work in the peace talks in San Vicente, Ricardo Palmera is reputed to be a skilled negotiator and adept diplomat. The Colombian peace talks would be enriched if Mr. Trinidad were to be released and allowed to join the negotiations, where he has been named as a delegate. He could be of great service to the cause of peace, and the reconciliation of Colombian society.
We are United States residents and citizens hopeful for the prospect of peace talks to end almost five decades of civil war in Colombia. We call on our government to welcome and not block this process. Specifically, we call on the administration of President Barack Obama to:
Release Ricardo Palmera aka Simón Trinidad from the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado so that he can fulfill his role as one of the FARC’s three primary negotiators in peace talks. Professor Palmera was a negotiator in past peace talks for the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
End the extradition of FARC insurgents to the US, a practice that directly interferes with the peace process and Colombian sovereignty.
End the extradition of all Colombians, including members of paramilitary organizations, a practice used by the U.S. government to “white wash” leaders of death squads, interfering with ongoing investigations into connections between pro-government death squads and Colombian politicians.
We also call for an immediate end to the inhumane practice of solitary confinement for Ricardo Palmera, held in isolation for eight years, and the more than 81,000 inmates held under similar conditions in US prisons.
Over the past 14 years, the US government has contributed more than $8 billion to Plan Colombia to fund war and repression. US aid is a crucial component in the displacement of 5 million mostly rural persons, forcibly run from their homes so that US-favored big landowners and transnational corporations can seize natural resources for private development.
The FARC’s choice of Ricardo Palmera as one of its top negotiators during this process brings front and center several issues that should concern people of the United States. It exposes how the extraditions of Palmera and other Colombian prisoners are violations of Colombia’s sovereignty as well as the spirit of peace and truth telling. Palmera was a primary spokesperson during the 1999-2002 peace talks and facilitated the release of warcaptives being held by the guerrillas.
Palmera was a university professor and belonged to a Leftist teachers’ organization. The Colombian military’s death squads assassinated all but two of its members. One survivor, Imelda Daza Cotes, went into exile in Sweden. The other survivor, Palmera, joined the FARC in 1987.
The CIA seized Palmera in Ecuador, while he was traveling under terms of “safe passage”. Palmera was on his way to meet an aide to UN chief Kofi Annan so they could discuss terms of a prisoner release by the FARC. Professor Palmera was extradited from Colombia to the US on Dec. 31, 2004 to face terrorism, hostage-taking and drug charges. The terrorism and hostage-taking charges stemmed from a Feb. 13, 2003 incident in which three US mercenaries were taken prisoner after their plane crashed inside FARC-controlled territory. Palmera himself had nothing to do with this and was charged entirely on the basis of his membership in the FARC. In fact, the prosecutor at one point identified 20,000 FARC members as co-conspirators, later reducing it to 50 FARC officers. Palmera was convicted on one count of hostage-taking and sentenced to 60 years. Prosecutors were unable to get convictions on the other counts.
The extradition of FARC leaders is a Bush-era tactic developed in conjunction with Colombia’s former President Álvaro Uribe. Uribe himself was listed by the US Defense Intelligence Agency as one of Colombia’s top 100 narco-traffickers. With peace talks now announced by the Colombian government and the FARC, the time has come to end this tactic once and for all.
The extradition of pro-government paramilitary prisoners has served a similar purpose, interrupting judicial investigations into links between paramilitaries and major political figures. Most of the implicated politicians come from Uribe’s party and its allies. For peace and reconciliation to be achieved, paramilitary prisoners must also be returned and the extraditions stopped.
The case of Ricardo Palmera exposes the repression and inhumane treatment now commonplace in US prisons. Ricardo Palmera is himself confined to a cell 23 hours a day, completely isolated from other inmates. Interactions with guards are so minimized that he does not even see the person who brings him his food, delivered through a small slot in the cell door. He is also not allowed to receive visits or exchange letters with friends, his supporters, or his Colombian lawyer. According to a 2005 census by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are at least 81,622 persons held in “restrictive housing” (solitary confinement), and some 25,000 in Supermax prisons under conditions similar to Palmera’s.
The time for peace in Colombia is here. It is also time for the US government to show that it truly supports—and will not impede—Colombia’s pathway to peace.
FARC chooses Ricardo Palmera for peace negotiator
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) have chosen Ricardo Palmera as one of their negotiators for Colombian peace talks. Professor Palmer is a political prisoner held in solitary confinement by the U.S. government in the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison. Palmera’s supporters in Colombia and around the world are demanding that Palmera be set free and that the U.S. government stop interfering in Colombia’s internal affairs. The FARC put Palmera’s name forward as one of the three main negotiators after peace negotiations were announced last week.
Over the past six months the revolutionaries of FARC have held exploratory talks with Colombian government representatives of President Santos. Negotiations will take place in October in Oslo, Norway, to be followed by more negotiations in Havana, Cuba, with Venezuela and Chile acting as observers. The FARC is advancing a people’s agenda that includes land reform for family farms, good jobs, healthcare, education, housing and the eradication of poverty. There is a great need for guarantees concerning the assassination and murder of trade unionists, community organizers and political candidates.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, “The U.S. government has no right to put Colombian revolutionaries on trial or in prison. The U.S. should pursue the crimes against and murders of union workers, poor peasants and indigenous people by Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Drummond Coal and big U.S. oil companies. The U.S. government ignores those crimes while militarily fighting the FARC and wrongfully punishing revolutionary leaders like Professor Palmera. The U.S. government should set Ricardo Palmera free immediately so he can plan a role in negotiations.”
The current FARC/Colombian government agreement advocates “Bilateral and definitive cease of fire and hostilities,” so the FARC proposed a bi-lateral cease-fire this week. President Santos immediately rejected it and demanded a one-sided cease-fire by FARC. President Santos’ negative response makes it likely these negotiations will be a contentious process.
The last time peace negotiations took place in 1998-2002, the FARC continued to wage war against the Colombian military. A decade before that, the FARC called a ceasefire in the mid-1980s while negotiating. This ceasefire led to the formation of Colombia’s most successful left political party, the Patriotic Union. However the Patriotic Union suffered close to 5000 assassinations and murders at the hands of the Colombian military and government death squads over the next few years. It was at this time that Ricardo Palmera left the Patriotic Union and joined the FARC in fighting the corrupt Colombian government. The U.S. government continues to spend nearly $1 billion per year funding, arming, training and directing the Colombian military.
In order to preserve democratic appearances, power brokers may limit repression to intimidation and creating divisions within dissident ranks. Surely, those targeted with the threat or reality of jail time, or cowed by abusive, freewheeling investigations do remember. Yet activists who are spared or members of the general public either never knew, or may forget.
The purpose here is to recall two recent episodes of serious repression, also to outline relevant mechanisms, particularly the use of jail time and police investigations to promote fear and divisions. These tools and objectives were features of both scenarios.
Colombian Prisoners of the U.S. Empire
Ricardo Palmera is both prisoner of war and political prisoner. Since his extradition to the United States from Colombia in late 2004, Palmera, known also as Simon Trinidad, has been held in solitary confinement in a high security federal prison, not allowed to receive letters or communicate freely with his lawyer. His first trial, in 2006, ended in a hung jury. Palmera’s second trial, initially delayed due to judicial cheating, eventually ended with his conviction on the single charge of membership in the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). That tagged him as a terrorist. He is now serving a 60-year sentence. His two other U.S. trials on drug trafficking charges ended in hung juries and mistrials.
Palmera had served the FARC as contact person with foreign agencies and diplomats engaged in promoting a negotiated settlement of civil war in Colombia. He was on his way to meeting with a UN official at the time of his CIA capture in Ecuador in January 2004.
Palmera’s fate was surely intended as an object lesson for leftist guerrillas anywhere. Those in Colombia were on notice to steer clear of negotiations leading to a peace agreement. Prison abuse heaped on Palmera contributes to the intimidation. The harsh U.S. treatment of an armed revolutionary combatant puts pressure on all revolutionaries, especially those professing non-violence, to demonstrate, even show off, their dedication to peace and dialogue, and in the process possibly alienating their allies in struggle.
In tandem with the case of Ricardo Palmera, advocates for Colombian justice condemn U.S. treatment of FARC leader Anayibe Rojas Valderama, known also as “Sonia.” Extradited to the United States, she received a 17 year jail sentence for trafficking in cocaine, an accusation she denies.
FBI Raids and Grand Jury Repression At Home
The wave of FBI investigations, last year in several midwestern cities, exemplifies a more nuanced approach to instilling fear and division, than locking up opposition figures. Beginning in September 2010, FBI agents took to barging into activists’ homes and confiscating documents, literature, passports, computer files, and personal memorabilia. So far, 23 organizers, labor activists among them, have been subpoenaed to testify at grand jury hearings. All have refused. Indictments are rumored.
Many of those targeted organized solidarity efforts on behalf of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples. Several traveled to those regions. A few participated in demonstrations at the 2008 Republican convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, marked by an outsized police presence. According to the New York Times, FBI actions are in line with recently expanded powers “allowing agents to look into people and organizations ‘proactively’ and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.” For the government, schooling the activist community into caution and second-guessing is an important objective.
Because several of those whose homes were raided belong to leftist political groupings, activists with other ideological bearings may remain at a distance. Whatever assumptions different people may hold, we know the government action was provoked by their special agent, “Karen Sullivan” spreading lies and rumors. That feeds into disunity.
Search warrants used by the intrusive FBI functionaries referred to possible “material support”, allegedly provided to Palestinian and Colombian groups viewed as terrorist. The anti- terrorist witch-hunt recalls former and even current red scare thinking. Such hysteria prevails particularly in Colombia, where 7500 political prisoners languish in jails.
U.S. brandishing of the terrorist label is revealing. War on terrorism now serves as pretext for U.S. military actions throughout most of the world. Anti-war activism within the United States and worldwide resistance to U.S. imperialism are likely to set off U.S. anti-terror machinery. That’s what happened to the victims of FBI raids who were confronting U.S. imperialism. It is no great exaggeration to say that military combatants anywhere who violate U.S. rules and carry a terrorist label have a jail cell waiting for them in the United States, at least according to the court convicting Ricardo Palmera.
Abusive FBI investigations entered a new dimension in May with the ransacking of the Los Angeles home of Carlos Montes, cofounder of the Brown Berets organization that several decades ago mounted anti-war, anti-racism mobilizations on behalf of Chicanos. In league with local police, the FBI confiscated reams of documents and personal items. Montes was jailed briefly on charges relating to firearms possession. Subsequent court hearings have prompted solidarity demonstrations at the Los Angeles courthouse and in multiple U.S. cities.
A news report covering a recent Los Angeles demonstration cites an organizer for the Southern California Immigration Coalition. Ron Gochez condemns persecution of Montes as directed against the immigrant rights movement itself. "We will not be silent. We will not let them criminalize us,” he said.
If such is the case, unrestrained police investigations and the threat of jail time are being utilized to intimidate, divide and certainly to impede organizing efforts among cross border workers. That harks back to deadly fallout from the Cointelpro offensive against the Black liberation movement.
Your letters to Ricardo Palmera and Sonya expressing solidarity, friendship and concern would go a long way toward telling them they are not alone. While prison authorities have not been in the habit of delivering letters to the two prisoners, their receipt of letters serves to remind them too that the prisoners have friends. And if enough arrive, maybe they will be delivered. The prisoners’ addresses are:
Inmate: Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda #27896-016
USP Florence ADMAX
PO Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226
Anayibe R. Valderrama #27990-018
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Ft. Worth, TX, 76127
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is calling on supporters to send birthday cards to Ricardo Palmera, a Colombian revolutionary and prisoner of the U.S. Empire. July 30th, 2010, marks Professor Palmera’s 60th birthday, which he will celebrate alone in a Colorado Supermax prison.
Ricardo Palmera is a brilliant man who dedicates his whole life to the Colombian people and their fight for independence. Even from his prison cell, even with a gag over his mouth, Professor Palmera inspires thousands in the struggle for peace and justice. Many see Ricardo Palmera as a modern day Che Guevara. As a young man from a wealthy family and attending the naval academy, Palmera could not accept the violence, exploitation, and oppression he saw in his own country. He wanted no part of it. He turned towards organizing reform movements of peasants, workers, and progressive Colombian professionals demanding change. Palmera was tortured for his efforts and most of his friends were murdered by the Colombian military. In the mid-1980’s he became an organizer for the Patriotic Union, a peaceful, leftist electoral coalition. But when the Patriotic Union made gains, the Colombian military and their death squads assassinated 4000 of their activists and elected officials. With the electoral path to social change blocked, Palmera decided to go to the mountains and join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the age of 37. It was in his capacity as a peace negotiator, traveling in Ecuador on a mission to meet a UN official, that he was seized by U.S. agents and extradited to the United States.
Palmera faced ten charges in Washington DC trials that were designed to find him guilty, thereby criminalizing the Colombian national liberation struggle. However he turned the tables on the U.S. prosecutor, judges, and government. Judge Hogan had to step down when he and U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl were caught cheating after the first trial ended in a hung jury. Professor Palmera’s testimony put the U.S. war and military intervention in Colombia on trial. Palmera sounded like a true patriot dedicated to the defense and liberation of his people, while the witnesses of the U.S. State Department, the FBI, the Colombian military and U.S. military contractors came across as arrogant and sketchy.
At his trial, Ricardo Palmera said, “ Colombia has been at war for more than 60 years, with the growing participation of the USA. Today the war against the insurgents of the FARC is disguised behind other arguments. The war on drug trafficking is a disguise the US uses for greater interference in the Colombian conflict, sending advisors, spies, weapons, and investing millions of dollars in the war. This financial and military support emboldens the Colombian oligarchy and sustains the conditions that cause the Colombian conflict, but provides no solutions. Simon Bolivar said, "the destiny of the US is to plague America with misery in the name of liberty."
Today, while Ricardo Palmera is in solitary confinement with no human contact, the U.S. is building and occupying seven new military bases in Colombia to intensify the counter-insurgency war against the Colombian people and the FARC. Beyond fighting the FARC, the U.S. plans to use the bases to harass and intimidate Colombia’s neighbors —Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador where revolutionary and progressive governments rule. More U.S military intervention will only create more Ricardo Palmera’s throughout the Americas. For the Colombian people, it promises more poverty, displacement, and death. We must demand “NO to US bases in Colombia!”
We are asking people to send birthday cards and greetings for Ricardo Palmera to our friends at Fight Back! newspaper. We will then organize a delegation to visit a U.S. Attorney General’s office with the request that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder deliver the birthday cards to Ricardo Palmera. Eric Holder is the enforcer of the “Special Administrative Measures” that do not allow Ricardo Palmera to receive mail from his U.S. supporters. Please mail Ricardo Palmera birthday cards to:
Fight Back! interviewed Josh Sykes of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera about facebook shutting down the "Free Ricardo Palmera" group on June 30. Then, on July 7, facebook disabled Josh Sykes’ personal account, along with the accounts of Angela Denio and Tom Burke.
Fight Back!: Josh, can you tell us about the "Free Ricardo Palmera" group?
Josh Sykes: The "Free Ricardo Palmera" group was a facebook group administered by three activists with the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. Professor Palmera is a political prisoner in the United States. He was a leading peace negotiator with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP). Since he was first arrested on a mission to meet with a United Nations representative in Ecuador and then extradited to the U.S., the National Committee has worked for his freedom. The extradition and imprisonment of Palmera, a true freedom fighter, goes against Colombian sovereignty and is a slap in the face to the Colombian people. Palmera is a good man who was railroaded in an attempt by the U.S. to criminalize the national liberation struggle in Colombia. The facebook group was one of many ways the National Committee got out information about the struggle to free Ricardo Palmera. When facebook shut it down it had more than 700 members from around the world, with many from the U.S. and Latin America. It was a good resource for us and we are working to get it back.
Fight Back!: Why was the group shut down?
One possibility is that facebook is censoring views they don't like. They've shut down a number of groups operating in solidarity with the Palestinian people, for instance. Another possibility is that the U.S. State Department put pressure on the bosses at facebook to shut us down, just like they put pressure on the U.S. judges during the trials and sentencing of Professor Palmera. In any case, facebook is acting like the Colombian government’s death squads trying to shut people up for speaking out against the rich and powerful.
Fight Back!: What are the latest developments?
Sykes: There is what facebook calls an appeals process, which is nothing more than a run-around. Today facebook disabled the accounts of myself and the two other administrators of the Free Ricardo Palmera group, Angela Denio and Tom Burke, with no warning and no reason given. We are appealing that too. Meanwhile, we are asking that people stand up and oppose this blatant censorship on the part of facebook.
Call facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg at (650) 543-4800 and demand that the Free Ricardo Palmera group, and the accounts of the three administrators, be reinstated. Join the protest group, here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=136562699701718 Demand an end to facebook's censorship. Stop the attacks on progressive causes and activists.
Paul Wolf interviewed by RT on the Palmera case
NCFRP's Tom Burke interviewed by RT on the Palmera case
Stop the torture! Free Ricardo Palmera!
March 24, 2010
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is helping to circulate a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder to end the barbaric treatment of Professor Palmera. He is now enduring his fifth trial, while shackled hand and foot and attached to device that delivers incapacitating electric shocks if he moves too fast. This is cruel and unusual punishment. Ricardo Palmera has done nothing wrong and his continued imprisonment in this country is illegitimate and hypocritical. Free Ricardo Palmera!
Electric shock "trial," sickening violation of Ricardo Palmera’s human rights
March 5, 2010
Tom Burke, spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, urgently requests, “Help and aid from Americans, Colombians, and the international community to stop a crime.” Professor Palmera is being put on trial in Colombia while held in solitary confinement in the U.S. He is being forced to wear prison clothes, shackled at the hands and feet and then chained together around the waist, with the ever-present threat of electrical shock if he moves too quickly. This ‘trial’ is a violation of Professor Palmera’s dignity and his rights as a prisoner of war. Tom Burke says, “There is nothing fair or just about the trials and imprisonment of this brave Colombian freedom fighter Ricardo Palmera. Ricardo Palmera should be set free.”
Professor Palmera is held by the U.S. government in solitary confinement, under inhumane conditions in the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison. Tom Burke says, “We need friends and sympathizers to support freedom for professor Ricardo Palmera (popularly known in Colombia as Simon Trinidad). We denounce the wrongs committed against Ricardo Palmera by the U.S. and Colombian governments, along with the abuses and violations of human rights.”
Following four unfair trials in Washington D.C., including one where Chief Judge Hogan was forced to step down after cheating with U.S. Prosecutor Ken Kohl, Professor Palmera is now the victim of a new judge, named Montado, sent by the corrupt Colombian government of President Uribe.
In a public denouncement, Ramiro Orjuela Aguilar, Palmera’s Colombian lawyer said “Ricardo Palmera is in chains, with electric shock equipment attached to his body that paralyzes him if he moves abruptly. This is the third time this happened in front of the ‘virtual’ courts of Neiva.” The Colombian government is accusing Palmera of planning a FARC guerrilla attack that killed six travelers and injured six more on May 7, 2000.
“Ricardo Palmera is handcuffed, with his feet shackled, and then chains running between his hands, waist and feet” says the Lawyer Orjuela Aguilar. “He is taken to the courtroom with a machine that shocks him. They attach equipment to his body so if Ricardo moves too much, then it shocks him with enough voltage to paralyze him. During the trials, he cannot move easily enough to see the documents in front of him,” the lawyer explained.
Ricardo Palmera was one of the negotiators in the discussions for peace between the Colombian government of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) and the guerrilla organization FARC-EP that ended in San Vincente del Cagauan, in Caqueta, Colombia.
Following these negotiations in 2002, Palmera was illegally detained in Ecuador by U.S. intelligence agents, then extradited, put on trial, and imprisoned by the U.S. government. Palmera went to Ecuador to meet James Lemoyne, a UN official working for the prevention and resolution of internal conflicts, including the 60-year-old social and armed conflict in Colombia.
Next Palmera faced four trials in Washington DC. Two of the trials were repeated because the American juries refused to convict Palmera. The U.S. State Department demanded new trials, until Palmera was found guilty of one charge - membership in the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). During the four trials Palmera was proud to say and explain why he belongs to the FARC, the largest rebel guerrilla army in Latin America. However, the U.S. government defines FARC as a criminal conspiracy.
There is nothing normal about Ricardo Palmera’s case: the UN official was not allowed to testify in his trials, he is held in solitary confinement, the U.S. press cannot interview him, he cannot make phone calls, he is not allowed to interact with other humans, to breath fresh air, nor to see the sky. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera recently denounced the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for not allowing Professor Palmera to read letters sent by his American supporters.
Instead of allowing a peaceful negotiation to the 60-year-old armed conflict, the U.S. is choosing war. The U.S. government is abusing the U.S. court system in an effort to criminalize the national liberation struggle of the Colombian people. Tens of thousands of Colombian revolutionaries are not criminals. Solidarity is necessary and urgently needed. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera urges friends and sympathizers to denounce U.S. authorities for these violations against this brave fighter for peace, justice, and the Colombian people. Free Ricardo Palmera!
“Free Ricardo Palmera” letters can be addressed to:
Eric Holder, the US Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
To contact the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tom Burke 773-844-3612.
Absurd Florida lawsuit against Colombian rebels
by Mick Kelly
December 16, 2009
Speaking with Fight Back! Dec. 15, a leader of the U.S.-based National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, Tom Burke, slammed a Nov. 12 lawsuit filed in Florida Middle District Court against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Burke stated, "This is nothing more than an attempt by a group of U.S. mercenaries to gain publicity and put some more money in their pockets. The lawsuit fits into a larger agenda - to criminalize the main Colombian rebel group, the FARC, an organization that is fighting for a free, just and independent Colombia."
At issue is this: On Feb. 13, 2003 a spy plane carrying military contractors Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, Tom Janis and a Colombian intelligence agent was shot down over territory controlled by the FARC. A firefight ensued in which one of the U.S. contractors, Tom Janis, and the Colombian intelligence agent were killed. The three U.S. mercenaries were captured by the FARC and became prisoners of war. The three mercenaries were released after an ill-advised 'rescue mission' by the Colombian authorities that could just as easily resulted in the contractors' deaths. Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and the some family members of Tom Janis are now suing in Federal Court.
The former prisoners of war allege they were mistreated by the FARC, claiming that they had to carry heavy backpacks when they were moved from place to place. "The mercenaries came home healthy and happy, which is something you cannot say about a lot of the prisoners the United States holds in Iraq and Afghanistan, where beatings and torture are commonplace," Burke stated.
In a bizarre twist, the lawsuit also targets about 100 Colombians who are alleged to be FARC members, including Ricardo Palmera and Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, (also know as Sonia.) Ricardo Palmera is the well-known FARC peace negotiator, who is currently being held in the Colorado Super Max. Sonia is being held in a Texas prison. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera has campaigned for the immediate release of both prisoners.
"The mercenaries went to another country to fight in a civil war. They were helping to keep Colombia's death squad government in power and ending up getting caught. They now are using the U.S. court system to attack the FARC, an organization that is fighting for freedom and justice in Colombia," says Tom Burke.
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is calling on people everywhere to stand for human rights and social justice in opposition to the cruel and unusual treatment of Ricardo Palmera, a negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), now a Colombian political prisoner of the U.S. Empire held in the Florence Colorado Supermax Prison. Professor Palmera is being held in 23-hour solitary lock-down with no access to the outside world.
Members and supporters of the National Committee have attempted to write to Ricardo Palmera on more than one occasion, in English and in Spanish, inquiring as to his health and asking him about his psychological well-being. These letters have been returned by the Federal Bureau of Prisons with the following notice: "Your correspondence to the above named inmate is being returned. This correspondence was not delivered to the inmate because he is not authorized to correspond with you."
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera sees this as a gross violation of Professor Palmera's most basic human rights. It is a harsh and un-called for punishment to deny someone such a simple thing as the exchange of letters with well-wishers and supporters.
Ricardo Palmera deserves to receive letters and anyone who writes him makes a declaration condemning the practice of denying him this right. As well, according to the "Returned Correspondence" letters we have received, Palmera is notified that the letters are being returned. This means that he is told he is receiving mail whether he can see it or not. In the solitude of his incarceration we believe that this simple statement will give him hope and in itself expresses solidarity.
The National Committee is therefore calling on people of conscience here and around the world to write to Ricardo Palmera, at:
Inmate: Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda #27896-016
USP Florence ADMAX
PO Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226
Free Ricardo Palmera!
COMUNICADO DEL COMITE NACIONAL PARA LA LIBERTAD DE RICARDO PALMERA EN ESTADOS UNIDOS.
24 de marzo, 2009
El Comité Nacional Para la Libertad de Ricardo Palmera (CNLRP), está pidiéndole a los pueblos del mundo entero para que se paren del lado de los derechos humanos y la justicia social en oposición al cruel e innecesario tratamiento a Ricardo Palmera, negociador de las FARC ( Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia ) y ahora prisionero político del imperio de los Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) mantenido en confinamiento solitario de 23 horas al día en una prisión de las llamadas SUPERMAX en Florence, Colorado. Palmera no tiene acceso al mundo exterior.
Miembros y partidarios del CNLRP han escrito a Ricardo Palmera en más de una ocasión, tanto en inglés como en español, averiguando por su salud y acerca de su estado sicológico. Pero, estas cartas han sido devueltas por el Buro Federal de Prisiones/ Federal Bureau of Prisons con una nota que dice: "Su correspondencia al prisionero arriba mencionado esta siendo devuelta. Esta correspondencia no fue entregada al presionero porque él no está autorizado para escribirse con usted".
El Comité Nacional Para la Libertad de Ricardo Palmera, considera que es una grotesca violación de los más básicos derechos humanos del professor Palmera. Esto es un áspero y innecesario castigo el negarle a alguien una cosa tan simple como es el intercambio de correspondencia con los simpatizantes y partidarios de una persona.
Ricardo Palmera merece recibir las cartas que le escriban y cualquier persona quien le escriba hace una declaración de condena a estas prácticas de negarle sus derechos. También, según la "Correspondencia Devuelta / Returned Correspondence", le han notificado a Palmera que le han escrito cartas, pero que esas cartas no puede leerlas y van a ser devueltas. Sin embargo, esto significa que el ha sido informado lo que en medio de la soledad de su encarcelamiento, es una declaración de esperanza y ánimo que expresa solidaridad.
Por lo tanto, el Comité Nacional CNLRP le pide a la gente conciente aquí en EE.UU. y alrededor del mundo que escriba a Ricardo Palmera, a la siguiente dirección :
Inmate: Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda #27896-016
USP Florence ADMAX
PO Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226
¡Libertad para Ricardo Palmera!
Trasladan a una penitenciaria en las montañas de colorado a
jefe de las FARC.
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera
11 de septiembre de 2008
El revolucionario colombiano Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad) está ahora
encarcelado en una penitenciaría aislada en las montañas de
Florence, Colorado. Esta penitenciaría esta bajo el régimen
de Instalaciones Administrativas de Máxima Seguridad (ADX) de los Estados
Unidos (EE.UU). Esto fue divulgado por la agencia de prensa española EFE en
agosto del presente año. Estas prisiones son conocidas como "SUPERMAX"
y son verdaderos calabozos modernos en donde mantienen a los prisioneros
políticos del gobierno de EE.UU., aislados de todo contacto humano y han
sido definidas como degradantes por el tratamiento, cruel e inhumano que
buscan romper el espiritú humano a través de inusuales castigos.
Ricardo Palmera es un líder de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de
Colombia (FARC), participó en las negociciones de paz (1998-2002) entre el
gobierno de Colombia y las FARC. En su organización tenía a cargo la
educación política de los combatientes rebeldes por más de 15
a ños. Su extradición, encarcelamiento y juicios son parte de la política de guerra sucia prácticada por la Casa Blanca en Colombia. Palmera es una víctima de la administración de Bush que lleva a cabo la llamada "Guerra al Terrorismo" - que es una guerra sin fin que no respeta fronteras nacionales
y conduce a guerras y opresión de los pueblos alrededor del mundo.
A comienzos del mes de octubre de 2006, la administración de Bush llevó a
juicio al professor Palmera, en la Corte Federal del Distrito de Columbia en
Washington, DC. con el próposito de poner la etiqueta de terrorista y
narcotráficante a él y los combatientes rebeldes de Colombia. El professor
Palmera desde el estante de los acusados convenció a los jurados integrados
por ciudadanos estadounidenses varias veces que tanto él como el resto de
las FARC son combatientes rebeldes con una causa justa. A pesar de los
cuatro juicios y 10 cargos de acusaciones, el único cargo que prevaleció fue
el que Ricardo Palmera reclamó de pertenecer a las FARC la más antigua,
numerosa y respetada organización guerrillera de latinoamérica-.A las FARC
la acusaron en los juicios como una organización de "conspiración criminal".
El juez Royce Lamberth irrazonablemente condenó a Ricardo Palmera a
60 años . Todos los otros cargos fueron retirados a petición del Departamento de Estado de los EE.UU. Esto significa de que no pudieron ganar ni en sus propias cortes ni enfrente de un jurado de estadounidenses.
Ricardo Palmera está en la lucha por y al lado de los pobres y los
oprimidos y en contra de los ricos y de los opresores. Como todos los
patriotas colombianos él defiende la soberanía de su país, la independencia y los derechos de la gente. El professor Palmera no ha hecho nada
equivocado. El con toda justeza se ha rebelado en contra de la corrupción y
los escuadrones de la muerte del gobierno que reprime y asesina a su propio
pueblo para que una poderosa y rica élite pueda continuar enrriqueciéndose
y también enrriqueciendo a los inversionistas de los EE.UU.
El circo montado del gobierno de EE.UU aún no termina para Ricardo Palmera, todavía tiene que encarar casi 50 juicios en Colombia, estos se
llevarán a cabo a través de video-conferencias desde una aislada prisión de Florence, Colorado. Este es un método injusto de enjuiciar a la gente detenida. El gobierno de EE.UU dice que Ricardo Palmera es un criminal.
Sin embargo, EE.UU continúa haciendo reglas especiales para violar las
normas acerca de los juicios en contra de Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad). El professor Palmera es un prisionero político en y del gobierno de Estados Unidos.
COMITE NACIONAL PARA LIBERTAD DE RICARDO PALMERA
Super Max Isolation For FARC Leader
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera
September 11, 2008
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera is now imprisoned at the United
States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence,
Colorado, as reported by the Spanish EFE news service in August. Known as
the Colorado "Super Max", it is a modern dungeon where political prisoners
of the U.S. government are kept isolated from all human contact. The
treatment is degrading, meant to break an individual's spirit, and defines
"cruel and unusual punishment".
Ricardo Palmera is a leader with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC). He worked on peace negotiations and the political education of
Colombian rebel fighters for more than fifteen years. His extradition,
imprisonment, and trials are part of the White House's dirty war in
Colombia. Palmera is a victim of the Bush Administration's so-called War on
Terror--an unending war that respects no national boundaries and leads to
war and oppression around the world.
Starting in October 2006, the Bush administration put Professor Palmera on
trial in Washington D.C. Bush thought he could label the FARC as terrorists
and drug traffickers. Instead, with everything stacked against him,
Professor Palmera convinced American jurors again and again that he and the
FARC are rebel fighters with a just cause. Despite four trials and ten
separate charges, the only charge that stuck was the one claiming Ricardo
Palmera belonged to a "criminal conspiracy"--the FARC--the oldest, largest,
and most well respected rebel army in Latin America. U.S. Judge Royce
Lamberth unreasonably sentenced Professor Palmera to 60 years. All other
charges were dropped at the request of the U.S. State Department. They
could not win in their home court in front of American juries.
Ricardo Palmera stands for the poor against the rich, the oppressed against
their oppressors. Like all patriotic Colombians, he defends the sovereignty
of his country, its independence, and the rights of the people. Professor
Palmera has done nothing wrong. He rightfully rebelled against a corrupt,
death squad government that represses and kills its own people so a powerful
elite can continue to enrich themselves and U.S. investors.
The U.S. government circus is not over yet for Ricardo Palmera. He will face
nearly 50 trials in Colombia by videoconference from isolation in Colorado.
This method of trial is unfair. The U.S. claims Ricardo Palmera is a
criminal, but continues to make special rules and violates U.S. and
international norms for court proceedings. There is nothing normal about
Ricardo Palmera's trials. Professor Palmera is a U.S. political prisoner.
Free Ricardo Palmera!
The facts about the Palmera case
The following is a fact sheet put out by the National Committee To Free Ricardo Palmera. You may also download it in Microsoft Word format for printing out and distributing here.
FREE RICARDO PALMERA!
We demand the U.S. government free Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera, a political leader and negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Professor Palmera has done nothing wrong. To the contrary, he consistently defends the sovereignty of his country, Colombia's independence, and the rights of the Colombian people.
Ricardo Palmera's extradition, imprisonment, and trials are part of the U.S. Pentagon's counter-insurgency war. Palmera is the latest victim of the Bush Administration's so-called "War on Terror"; an unending war that respects no national boundaries and leads to repression and death around the world.
U.S. WAR IN COLOMBIA - PLAN COLOMBIA
Imposing "Plan Colombia", the U.S. government is intervening directly in Colombia's civil war -- arming, training, and commanding the Colombian Military and backing the corrupt government of a small wealthy elite. The Pentagon's Southern Command gives orders to Colombia's generals. President Bush has doubled U.S. military advisors to 800 and contract mercenaries to 600. The U.S. government's dirty war in Colombia costs over $5 billion in taxpayers' money. It goes to the Colombian Military and its death squads who torture and kill trade unionists, students, and peasants. The paramilitary death squads are part and parcel of the Colombian state, serving the interests of U.S. corporations like Occidental Oil, Chiquita Banana, Drummond Coal, and Coca-Cola. Plan Colombia is a plan for poverty, misery and death. It rains down terror upon Colombia's poor.
The imprisonment of Ricardo Palmera is a direct result of U.S. intervention in Colombia's civil war. The FARC formed in 1964 after Colombia's elites and their U.S. allies violently attacked an independent peasants' movement. Ricardo Palmera joined the FARC in 1989 after seeing most of his friends and comrades of the Patriotic Union political party murdered or exiled. The Colombian Military and their death squads murdered more than 4000 candidates, members, and elected officials of the Patriotic Union. Today, the FARC is a rebel army of 28,000 fighting for national liberation. It consists mainly of peasants and one-third of its fighters are women. However, FARC members come from all walks of life, including leaders like Professor Palmera. The FARC fight for social justice, seeking democratic social and economic change, organizing the poor to overthrow the rich and become the rulers of society. The FARC opposes the U.S. Empire -- where U.S. corporations steal the oil, coal, minerals, gems, and agricultural products that belong to the Colombian people. The FARC appeals to the American people to demand peace, not war, from Bush and other leaders.
U.S. DESPERATION LEADS TO EXTRADITION
Bush and the U.S. government are desperate. They know the forces of revolution grow as "Plan Colombia" fails. To try to salvage their dirty war in Colombia, the U.S. State Department rides roughshod over Colombian sovereignty. U.S. courtrooms are being used to intervene in Colombia.
It is absurd that the U.S. Government has extradited Mr. Palmera on the basis of hostage taking and providing material support to terrorists. The specifics of the charge concern U.S. contracted mercenaries who were shot down in their plane over FARC territory while providing "real time" information on the FARC to the Colombian Military. A firefight ensued in which one U.S. contractor and a Colombian sergeant were killed, while three U.S. mercenaries were captured. The U.S. Justice Department is trying to claim that this small battle in Colombia's civil war amounts to hostage taking, and that the long-running guerrilla war is now a "terrorist" action! This makes a mockery of international law, as Bush attempts to impose U.S. sovereignty in Colombia.
Professor Palmera's trials are outrageous. At times, it is not just Ricardo Palmera on trial, but the FARC in its entirety. In the first trial Judge Hogan initially bought advertising space in Colombian newspapers and magazines, demanding the FARC appear in his Washington D.C. courtroom! They are attempting to criminalize the struggle of the Colombian people, but end up looking arrogant and foolish in front of the whole world.
Ricardo Palmera is held in solitary confinement -- no family, no friends, no reporters, not even his own Colombian lawyer can visit. However, by speaking the truth in court, FARC leader Palmera has consistently beaten the Bush administration. Palmera won a victory when the first trial ended in a hung jury. American jurors could not find Palmera guilty on the three "terrorism" charges and the two "kidnapping" charges. It was supposed to be a "slam-dunk" for the U.S. prosecutors, but turned into a big loss on their home turf.
Next the U.S. government re-tried Palmera on the same exact charges. However before the 2nd trial could even begin, Judge Hogan was caught cheating with U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl and had to step down, to recuse himself. Hogan's replacement, Judge Lamberth refused to allow Palmera any witnesses. The U.S. prosecutor had dozens of witnesses -- paid informants, lying convicted drug runners, and corrupt Colombian government officials. At the end of the 2nd trial, the jury could not find Palmera guilty of "terrorism" charges or the actual kidnapping charge related to three U.S. military contractors captured and held by the FARC. Unfortunately, based upon the FARC capturing its enemies in combat, the jury convicted Palmera of "belonging to a conspiracy to kidnap". Judge Lamberth added every year of time the U.S. Prosecutor asked for, producing a 60-year sentence while emphasizing his "judicial independence and impartiality". At his sentencing Ricardo Palmera gave a moving and heroic speech, defending himself and his principles, the FARC and its leadership, and the revolution of the Colombian people. Ricardo Palmera's speech will one day appear in history books across Latin America.
The third and fourth trials of Ricardo Palmera involved "drug" charges, claiming Professor Palmera is part of a vast conspiracy to import cocaine to the U.S. This claim is like the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. It is the big lie with no evidence. The FARC are simply not involved in the production or trafficking of drugs. This time, seven American jurors declared Ricardo Palmera "not guilty". Another hung jury, another mistrial, but the U.S. Prosecutor put Ricardo Palmera on trial again. For the same charges! Another million-dollar trial with no evidence, only paid informants and corrupt government officials. In this fourth trial, Palmera won another hung jury and the U.S. State Department finally gave up and requested that the charges be dropped.
FREE RICARDO PALMERA!
STOP PLAN COLOMBIA!
The extradition, imprisonment, and trials in Washington D.C. of Ricardo Palmera show the lapdog relationship of Colombia's government to the U.S. This extradition and the four trials is a threat to movements for social justice around the world. The "visible" and direct involvement by the U.S. Government in Colombia threatens to set a precedent where popular movements around the world will be under the unilateral and direct dictates of the U.S. government and U.S. law without regard to national independence or international law. We ask people who stand for peace with justice, who support democracy, and who know right from wrong, to join our campaign for the immediate release of Ricardo Palmera! We repeat again, the only fair trial is no trial. The only fair sentence is no sentence. Free Ricardo Palmera! Stop Plan Colombia!
The National Committee To Free Ricardo Palmera
For more information, contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612
Bush administration admits defeat in Ricardo Palmera case
Following a State Department request, the U.S. prosecutor asked that all drug charges against Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera be dropped. This follows two mistrials where American juries failed to convict Colombian rebel, Palmera. The Bush Administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars on two lengthy trials where the deck was stacked against Palmera. Professor Palmera is an important negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Angela Denio, a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a leader with the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, "This is an exciting victory. After two mistrials for the same charges, the US Government has finally accepted that any jury will see thorough their contradictory witnesses and repeated lies. After the last mistrial we were asking ourselves 'how many times will they retry this man for the same charges?' The Bush administration finally realized it is only embarrassing itself further. This new development lends only more proof to the truth--that neither Ricardo Palmera nor any of the FARC leaders traffic cocaine. This is a fact that the Uribe and Bush governments would like to deny because they are the ones who should be on trial. Plan Colombia must be stopped and Ricardo Palmera freed."
Ricardo Palmera, a political prisoner of the Bush White House is held under "special administrative measures" -- not allowed any visits from family, friends, or supporters. The media is not allowed to interview Palmera and he is held in solitary confinement. Professor Palmera is likely to be moved to a Federal Prison soon.
Better known in Colombia by his nom de guerre Simon Trinidad, Ricardo Palmera was previously handed a sixty-year sentence for belonging to the "criminal conspiracy" of the FARC. The FARC is a 44-year-old revolutionary insurgency that governs large swaths of Colombia and is quietly present in most cities and towns. The FARC is composed of tens of thousands of peasants and working people, supported by millions more, and seeks to overthrow the corrupt wealthy elites backed by the U.S.
Tom Burke of the National Committee said, "The imprisonment and trials of Ricardo Palmera are a violation of the sovereignty of Colombia. The idea that the FARC is a drug cartel is a bigger fantasy than the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everyone in the U.S. and Colombian governments know this, but they are at war with the FARC and will say anything. The Bush administration fears a revolution in Colombia will stop U.S. corporations from pillaging the oil, the coal, and other natural resources. The Bush White House must be very disappointed with the outcome of Ricardo Palmera's trials."
To write and congratulate Ricardo Palmera on his latest victory, address cards and letters to:
c/o Federal Public Defender for D.C., Robert Tucker
625 Indiana Ave., Suite 550
Washington D.C. 20004
Another hung jury -
Mistrial in case of Ricardo Palmera
Washington, D.C. - In stunning defeat for the Bush administration, the attempt to frame Colombian rebel Ricardo Palmera on drug trafficking charges ended with a hung jury in Federal Court here, April 21. With the jurors unable to agree, Judge Royce Lambert declared a mistrial.
Ricardo Palmera was a top peace negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) until he was kidnapped in Ecuador and brought to Washington D.C. The FARC is fighting to topple the U.S.-backed Colombian government. Palmera is being held in solitary confinement.
This is the second trial to end with a mistrial on these particular charges. Professor Palmera has also faced two other trials - one of which ended in a mistrial and the other with a single conviction out of four charges. In this trial the prosecution�s strategy was to portray Ricardo Palmera and the FARC as part of some kind of drug dealing gang. Since this is untrue, the prosecution was forced to rely on paid witnesses who lied on the stand and whose identities were kept secret.
Tom Burke, of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera states, "The prosecution and the U.S. government want to portray Ricardo Palmera as a criminal and criminalize the struggle of the Colombian people who are fighting for a just society free of foreign domination. They failed."
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera has organized numerous protests and other events to demand the immediate release of Palmera.
Jury deadlocked in cocaine case against Colombian rebel
WASHINGTON (AP) — A jury says it is deadlocked in the cocaine trafficking case against Colombia rebel leader Ricardo Palmera.
That raises the prospect of an embarrassing second mistrial in a case the U.S. hoped would reinforce its stance that Latin America's largest rebel group is also a drug cartel.
A federal judge told jurors to take the weekend off and resume deliberating Monday.
Ricardo Palmera is already serving a 60-year prison sentence, so the outcome of the drug trial will have little effect on him. But prosecutors are seeking a symbolic drug war victory in a trial that could cost most than $1 million.
Washington D.C. - Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera will testify in
his own defense here in Federal Court the second week of April. Members of
the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will be attending the trial
April 8 and urge other supporters to join them.
Palmera, who was kidnapped from Latin America by the U.S. government, is on
trial for phony drug charges. His last trial on the same charges ended with
a hung jury. The well-known Colombian Marxist and peace negotiator for the
FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), is being held in solitary
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera stated, "Ricardo
Palmera should be released at once. The U.S. government has no right to try
him and his trial is a farce. The names of many of the witnesses are secret
and government admits they are being paid. And they are liars to boot."
NO, OTRA VEZ ! NUEVO JUICIO AL REVOLUCIONARIO COLOMBIANO
Línea de piquete y conferencia de prensa por la libertad del revolucionario
colombiano Ricardo Palmera, injustamente encarcelado y enjuiciado varias
veces en Washington, D.C., Estados Unidos (EE.UU).
¿ Cuándo ? Lunes 3 de marzo, 2008. ¿ A qué hora ? Piquete de línea 8 : 30
a.m. / Conferencia de prensa a las 9:00 a.m. / ¿ Dónde ? Edificio de la
Corte Federal , (333 Constitución Avenue N W), Washington D.C.
Demandamos la libertad del revolucionario colombiano Ricardo Palmera (
Simón Trinidad ). Su detención, encarcelamiento y juicios son una violación
de la soberanía de Colombia. Palmera no ha cometido crimen alguno como
tampoco ha hecho nada malo. Ni mucho menos en los EE.UU. Es todo lo
contrario, él ha sido un luchador al servicio del pueblo colombiano. Palmera
ha luchado en contra de la corrupción y el Terrorismo de Estado, que le ha
impuesto a su país la política del presidente Bush y Cía.
Palmera ha estado detenido en una cárcel en los alrededores de la ciudad de
Washington D.C., en confinamiento solitario y con una prohibición total de
contactos y comunicación : con sus familias, amigos, medios de comunicación
tanto de EE.UU. como del resto del mundo. Ni siquiera su propio abogado en
Colombia ha podido visitarlo. No puede hacer ni recibir llamadas
teléfonicas, al igual que correspondencia.
Ahora, los juicios al professor Palmera han sido algo extraño. El primer
juicio terminó en un NO VEREDICTO. Entonces, volvieron a juzgarlo por los
mismos cargos. Al terminar el primer juicio y en la preparación del segundo
juicio, el juez Hogan tuvo que renunciar al ser agarrado junto al US fiscal
Ken Kohl haciendo componendas para favorecer a la fiscalia en contra de
Palmera . Hogan fue reemplazado por el juez Lamberth, este juez rehusó
permitirle a la defensa de Palmera presentar testigos. Pero, a su vez
autorizó a la fiscalia de EE.UU. a presentar docenas de testigos,
informantes pagados, mentirosos y convictos tráficantes de drogas, corruptos
del gobierno de Colombia testificar en contra de Palmera. Por eso decimos
que EL UNICO JUICIO JUSTO ES NINGUN JUICIO !
email: email@example.com o contacte telefonicamente a Tom Burke (773) 844-3612 / Mick Kelly ( 612)
60 Years In Prison For Colombian Revolutionary Ricardo Palmera
By Kati Ketz and Angela Denio
Washington D.C. - Professor Palmera appeared calm and confident as he entered the courtroom in an orange prison jumpsuit, Jan. 28 He listened with interest as U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl repeatedly called him a ‘terrorist’ as he argued that Palmera should receive a life sentence.
Ricardo Palmera, who served as a peace negotiator for Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and is now a political prisoner held the U.S., had faced Prosecutor Kohl at past trials. In two previous trials, prosecutor Kohl failed to prove terrorism charges against Professor Palmera.
In the last case, Kohl was caught colluding with the judge and the judge had to step down. Kohl’s cheating set the stage for Judge Lamberth to take over. In the retrial, Judge Lamberth approved dozens of prosecution witnesses, while not allowing Palmera even one. U.S. prosecutor Kohl’s sentencing arguments were outrageous distortions.
In response, public defender Bob Tucker argued for a lesser sentence. Tucker’s arguments emphasized the political background of the trial and the U.S. government’s intervention in Colombia’s civil war. Tucker spoke of how Judge Royce Lamberth influenced the jury by instructing them to use wide definitions in finding Ricardo Palmera guilty of belonging to a conspiracy - the FARC. Tucker also pleaded to the judge to show some leniency due to Palmera’s honesty in his testimony, contrasted with the coached testimony and lies of many prosecution witnesses.
For the next hour, Ricardo Palmera spoke with honor and pride. These are excerpts:
“I speak as a member of the FARC, an insurgent organization that takes up arms against the Colombian government. I have been a member since 1987. The Colombian oligarchy has used arms to oppress the people; this gave rise to the FARC, which uses arms to free them. The FARC are part of the Colombian people. They use arms and protests and various other ways to express opposition to the violent and elitist regime.”
Professor Palmera spoke about various FARC leaders, like Marulanda, and their backgrounds including farmers, workers, indigenous, women and student leaders and their struggle for a “pluralistic, democratic and peaceful Colombia with social justice.” Later he added “The ruling regime uses a policy of violence - employing murder, assassination, threats and death squads to keep themselves in power.”
Palmera went on to speak about economic inequality. “Latin America represents the greatest economic disparity. Colombia is third in Latin America in economic and social disparity. 24 million Colombians live below the poverty line and subsist on one or two dollars per day.”
Referring to the trial, Palmera said, “What takes place here is a political trial from beginning to end, no matter what the U.S. government may try to claim. The political nature of this trial is pleasing to me because it allows me to present the ideas of the FARC and the Secretariat to the judge and the jury, and to explain the ideas and goals of the FARC to the American people. I am also quite satisfied because despite the great lengths the U.S. government went to, the jury did not find me, Ricardo Palmera, guilty of being a terrorist, which I believe the U.S. government has mistakenly classified the FARC as. I take the opportunity here, on behalf of the FARC and myself, to make a condemnation of all terrorism no matter its origin. I will never forget that it is the terrorist actions of the Colombian state that brought me to become a member of the FARC and I will never allow it to become our practice.”
“The FARC - and I as a member of the FARC in particular - reject extradition. It is a neo-colonial policy that violates the sovereignty of the Colombian people. It is used as a weapon by the U.S. to blackmail men and women who fight for a just cause, including Sonia and myself. On the charge of conspiracy itself, I bear no guilt. The charge pertains to problems in my country and not beyond. It reflects real problems of the conflict and ways to exchange prisoners on both sides. I sent a letter to FARC leader Marulanda asking that my freedom not become a barrier for the freedom of others in Colombia. I think that the Prisoner Accords will become an important factor to achieve peace and justice in Colombia. A political solution has always been a part of any conflict and it has always been part of the FARC platform to find a political solution. As I have already had a meeting with the U.S. Department of State, I am willing for further meetings to take place to increase dialogue. When I joined the FARC, I was aware I might lose my life or liberty to obtain peace and justice for the Colombian people.”
Palmera’s arguments were coherent and clear. He was unrepentant and defended all of his actions on behalf of the Colombian people. He described and spoke with pride about the FARC and its leadership. Palmera thanked the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera for their support. He thanked Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba for meeting with him prior to the sentencing. Then Palmera ended his speech with slogans and a quote from Bolivar: “Viva La FARC! Viva Marulanda! Viva Bolivar!”
Following Ricardo Palmera’s speech, Judge Royce Lambert praised Ricardo Palmera’s intelligence, his belief in principles, and while emphasizing his own ‘judicial independence’ sentenced Palmera to 60 years in prison, calling him a terrorist and saying his activity in Colombia broke U.S. law. A few months earlier, Judge Lamberth would not allow criminal proceedings against the executives of Chiquita Banana who armed and paid right-wing paramilitaries to kill union workers and leaders.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, “This verdict is the equivalent of a life sentence for Ricardo Palmera. It is a slap in the face to the Colombian people and anybody who believes in the sovereignty of their own country. Professor Palmera can be proud that despite solitary confinement, cheating prosecutors and biased judges, he has beaten nine other charges during three trials. Like their wars in Iraq and Colombia, the Bush administration “made an underestimation” in deciding to put Ricardo Palmera on trial. Palmera’s speech was brilliant.”
It remains to be seen whether Ricardo Palmera or Colombian revolutionary Sonia, held in a Fort Worth, Texas prison, will be included in any prisoner exchanges. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera plans to protest an upcoming re-trial of Ricardo Palmera in late March.
BOGOTA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Colombia's largest anti-government rebel
group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said Tuesday it is
willing to hand over their highest-profile hostages if its two key fighters
are released from a U.S. jail as part of the exchange deal.
Speaking to a domestic news agency Anncol, FARC commander Edgar Devia
also demanded the demilitarization of Pradera and Florida, two southern
The two key fighters imprisoned in the United States are Omaira Rojas
Cabrera, better known by her alias Sonia, and Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera
Pineda, known as Simon Trinidad.
"All of the high-value hostages will be released by the FARC as part of
a swap of prisoners that guarantees freedom for the guerillas deprived of
their freedom at the time of signing, including Simon and Sonia," Devia
The FARC released two hostages, former vice-presidential candidate Clara
Rojas and former legislator Consuelo Gonzalez, on Jan. 10. Gonzalez was
carrying documents showing that other hostages are alive.
Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe has previously rejected
demilitarization of the towns, saying it would leave residents without
He has instead offered to demilitarize a sparsely populated area
measuring 150,000 square km, and said that the FARC and the government
should talk there.
Uribe also opposed the inclusion of the two FARC fighters held in U.S.
jails, saying he had offered to release them before they were extradited if
the FARC was willing to free all its hostages.
The most well known of the high-profile hostages are U.S. citizens Keith
Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves, and Rojas's running-mate Ingrid
Betancourt, a former presidential candidate of dual French and Colombian
The Colombian government estimates there are 44 high-profile hostages,
whom the FARC is seeking to swap, and around 700 other hostages, whom the
guerrillas are seeking to ransom.
Source Xinhua News Agency
FARC Communique on Hostage Releases
January 10, 2008
FARC Communiqué in Regards to the Liberation of Clara and Consuelo
1. Honouring our word and commitment, today the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia FARC, handover Clara Rojas and Consuelo González
de Perdomo to the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,
Hugo Chávez, to Senator Piedad Cordova and the international
community. If the boy Emmanuel is not in the arms of his mother, it
is because President Uribe Vélez has sequestered him in Bogotá. Let
him free so that we can all celebrate this event.
2. This humanitarian and unilateral liberation is possible despite
the hindrance presented by President Uribe himself, a sworn enemy of
the exchange of prisoners and enemy of peace with social justice, as
he follows the ideological guidelines of Washington. Raising above
the intense military operations of the Patriotic Plan, the seizure of
the proofs of life, the capture of the humanitarian messengers who
carried them, the sequestering of little Emmanuel in Bogotá, and the
absurd intention to exclude the international humanitarian commission
from the facilitation, we have taken this first encouraging step that
invites to think about the possibility of peace in Colombia.
3. The efforts must now be directed at obtaining the military
c learing of Pradera and Florida as the stage for the dialogue
government-FARC for the agreement and the materialization of the
exchange to make possible the liberation of all the prisoners in
control of the contending forces, of those captives in the mountain
and the imprisoned guerrillas in the jails of the regime, including
Sonia and Simón. Our will is unquestionable. Let's not forget that in
the recent past we unilaterally released 304 military and police
officers, captured in combat. The handover of Clara and Consuelo we
carry out today reaffirms our disposition.
4. The fact is that we are a belligerent force awaiting recognition
by the governments of the world. This step would smooth the winding
path of the Colombia people in their search for peace. Ours is a
legitimate struggle. It is upheld by the universal right that all
the peoples of the world have to raise against oppression.
Our father, the Liberator Simón Bolivar teaches u s that, when power
is oppressive, virtue has the right to overwhelm it, and that the
virtuous man rises against the opressive and unbearable authority to
replace it with a kind and respected one. And this is, indeed, the
5, President Chávez, thank you very much. The world does not doubt
that your immense heart beats sincerely for the peace of Colombia and
the redemption of the peoples. We also thank the governments and
personalities of the world who have surrounded him without
reservations in this noble effort. And our special thanks to the
brave people of Venezuela for their support and brotherhood. To the
relatives of the prisoners and the friends of the humanitarian
exchange our call to persist. We will obtain the exchange.
Secretariat, Central High Command of the FARC
Mountains of Colombia, January 10 of 2008
Ricardo Palmera's Sentencing Postponed for a Second Time
Washington, D.C. - The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, along with students and other activists from around the country protested here Dec. 3 against the sentencing of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera. Ricardo Palmera was convinced of 'conspiracy to kidnap' in July. The other false charges the government attempted to pin on him met with a hung jury.
This conviction came after Professor Palmera's first trial was thrown out when the jury refused to find him guilty and after the judge in the case, Judge Kenneth Hogan, was forced to step down after being caught cheating with the prosecution’s lawyers. The sentencing, originally scheduled to take place on Nov. 20, was postponed until Dec. 3 with no reasoning given for the postponement.
At the picket and press conference before the hearing members of the Colombian Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, Fight Imperialism, Stand Together and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera blasted plans to sentence Palmera.
"This man being sentenced today has done nothing wrong," said Jeremy Miller, a member of Students for Democratic Society. "He his being punished simply for being a member of an organization fighting back against the oppression in his country."
Many of the protesters spoke to why they had traveled so far to stand in solidarity with Professor Palmera. "Palmera is a hero, not just for the Colombian people but for all people. He fights for the freedom and sovereignty of the Colombian masses, which is in the interest of all oppressed people. We must support the freedom of Colombian people if we ever wish to attain our own freedom," said Tyneshia Bowen of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together.
Once inside the courtroom the public was in for a surprise, as the sentencing was again postponed - this time for almost two months. The extension was granted to the prosecution owing to their desire to respond to a 30-plus page statement written by Professor Palmera himself, which cited legal reasons for his immediate release. The prosecution has expressed their intention to demand 60 years in prison for Professor Palmera, while the defense has said that Professor Palmera deserves time served.
When court ended, protesters raised their fists in solitary with Ricardo Palmera, who in turn raised his fist into the air.
"We do not believe that Palmera should be sentenced at all and are very happy about the extension of time for the sentencing," said Mick Kelly of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. "He should be released at once and we urge all progressive people to join us in this effort." In interviews with the Colombia's main radio and TV stations, Kelly praised both Palmera and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The National Committee has pledged to return to the Washington D.C. Federal Court House Jan. 28, the date now scheduled for Professor Palmera's sentencing.
Protest December 3rd in Washington D.C.—The Sentencing of Colombian Revolutionary Ricardo Palmera
On December 3, Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera faces
sentencing in a Washington D.C federal court. The National Committee
to Free Ricardo Palmera will pack the courtroom in support of this
brave freedom fighter.
Ricardo Palmera is a peace negotiator for Colombia's rebels - the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The U.S. extradited
Palmera to a prison outside Washington D.C. and hold him in solitary
confinement—no family, no friends, no reporters, not even his own
Colombian lawyer. Palmera only defends his country and fights for
freedom and democracy for the Colombian people.
Professor Palmera's trials are extraordinary. By speaking the truth,
FARC leader Palmera has consistently beaten the Bush administration's
prosecutors. Palmera won a victory when the first trial ended in a
hung jury. When the U.S. government re-tried Palmera on the same
exact charges, Judge Hogan was caught cheating and had to step down.
Hogan's replacement, Judge Lamberth refused to allow Palmera any
witnesses. The U.S. prosecutor has dozens of witnesses--paid
informants, lying convicted drug runners, and corrupt Colombian
government officials. At the end of the retrial, the jury could not
find Palmera guilty of "terrorism" charges or a kidnapping charge
related to three U.S. military contractors captured and held by the
FARC. Unfortunately, based upon the FARC capturing its enemies in
combat, the jury convicted Palmera of "belonging to a conspiracy to
kidnap". In another recent "drug" trial, seven American jurors wanted
to find Professor Palmera "not guilty", but a hung jury resulted. The
U.S. prosecutor plans to re-try Ricardo Palmera though there is no
evidence, only paid informants. Palmera plans to testify and win
again. The only fair trial is no trial. The only fair sentence is no
Tom Burke of the National Committee says, "Ricardo Palmera is a good
man who dedicates his whole life to the Colombian people. We oppose
the extradition, trials, and imprisonment of Ricardo Palmera because
it violates the sovereignty of the Colombian people. Palmera is a
Angela Denio of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) relates,
"Students from across the U.S. are educating themselves and protesting
the trials and sentencing of Professor Palmera. We oppose the war in
Iraq and we oppose Plan Colombia—the U.S. dirty war that brings
poverty, misery, and death to the Colombian people. SDS protests at
the U.S. Military's School of the America's in Georgia, where the
Colombian death squads are trained. An SOA graduate recently
testified against Professor Palmera. It is Bush and the SOA that
should be on trial! Our campaign to Free Ricardo Palmera is growing
and spreading. People are speaking out."
Burke finishes, "From Baghdad to Bogotá, President Bush's empire is
crumbling around him. At every trial, the rebel leader Ricardo
Palmera exposes the lies, distortions, and injustice of Bush and the
U.S. Empire. Palmera has beaten the U.S. government again and again.
We await Ricardo Palmera's speech! We say Free Ricardo Palmera!"
Free Ricardo Palmera!
Picket line and press conference to demand Ricardo Palmera's freedom!
Monday, December 3rd, 8:30 AM picket line 9:00 AM press conference
U.S. Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave., NW)
Protest November 20th in Washington D.C.—The Sentencing of Colombian Revolutionary Ricardo Palmera
November 15, 2007
On November 20th Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera faces sentencing in a Washington D.C federal court. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will pack the courtroom in support of this brave freedom fighter.
Tom Burke of the National Committee says, “We oppose the kidnapping, trials, and imprisonment of Ricardo Palmera. Palmera is a political prisoner. President Bush’s empire is crumbling around him--from Baghdad to Bogota. Even in U.S. courtrooms, brave revolutionaries like Ricardo Palmera speak against the U.S. Empire and expose the lies, the distortions, and the injustice of the Bush administration. Palmera has beaten the slanders and lies of the U.S. government again and again. We say Free Ricardo Palmera!”
Angela Denio of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) relates, “Students from across the U.S. are educating themselves and protesting the trials and sentencing of Professor Palmera. We oppose the war in Iraq. We oppose Plan Colombia—the U.S. dirty war that brings poverty, misery, and death to the Colombian people. SDS protests at the U.S. Military’s School of the America’s in Georgia, where the Colombian death squads are trained. An SOA graduate recently testified against Professor Palmera. It is Bush and the SOA that should be on trial! Our campaign to Free Ricardo Palmera shows Latin Americans that most North Americans are for peace and justice.”
Ricardo Palmera is a peace negotiator for Colombia’s rebels - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The U.S. kidnapped and extradited Palmera to a prison outside Washington D.C. where he is held in solitary confinement—allowed no family, no friends, no reporters, not even his own Colombian lawyer. Ricardo Palmera is a political prisoner. He has committed no crime. He only defends his country and fights for freedom and democracy for the Colombian people.
Professor Palmera’s trials are extraordinary. By speaking the truth, FARC leader Palmera has consistently beaten the Bush administration’s prosecutors. Palmera won a victory when the first trial ended in a hung jury. When the U.S. government re-tried Palmera on the same exact charges, Judge Hogan was caught cheating and had to step down. Hogan’s replacement, Judge Lamberth refused to allow Palmera any witnesses. The U.S. prosecutor has dozens of witnesses--paid informants, lying convicted drug runners, and corrupt Colombian government officials. At the end of the retrial, the jury could not find Palmera guilty of “terrorism” charges or a kidnapping charge related to three U.S. military contractors captured and held by the FARC. Unfortunately, based upon the FARC capturing its enemies in combat, the jury convicted Palmera of “belonging to a conspiracy to kidnap”. In another recent “drug” trial, seven American jurors wanted to find Professor Palmera “not guilty”, but a hung jury resulted. The U.S. prosecutor plans to re-try Ricardo Palmera though there is no evidence, only paid informants. Palmera plans to testify and win again. The only fair trial is no trial. The only fair sentence is no sentence.
Free Ricardo Palmera!
Picket line and press conference to demand Ricardo Palmera's freedom!
Tuesday, November 20th, 8:30 AM picket line 9:00 AM press conference
U.S. Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave., NW)
For more info contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280.
Protest The Sentencing of Ricardo Palmera!
November 6, 2007
On November 20th Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera will be handed the equivalent of a life sentence by Judge Royce Lamberth in a Washington D.C. Federal court. The National Committee to Free Ricardo
Palmera will be there to show our support for Colombian freedom fighter Ricardo Palmera and to oppose the overreaching arrogance of the U.S. Empire and President Bush.
Join the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera to show our support for Colombian freedom fighter
Ricardo Palmera and to oppose the overreaching arrogance of the U.S. Empire and President Bush. We
need you to give him strength and to show the people what is right and how to FIGHT!
The U.S. kidnapped and extradited Palmera to a prison outside Washington D.C. where he is held in solitary
confinement - NO family, NO friends, NO reporters, not even his own Colombian lawyer. Ricardo Palmera
is a political prisoner. HE HAS COMMITTED NO CRIME!
Professor Palmera's trial is bizarre. The first trial ended in a hung jury, so Palmera was re-tried on the
same charges. At the start of the second trial, Judge Hogan had to step down because he was caught cheating
with U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl. Hogan's replacement Judge Lamberth refused to allow Palmera any witnesses.
At the same time, Judge Lamberth allowed the U.S. prosecutor dozens of witnesses -- paid informants, lying
convicted drug runners, and corrupt Colombian government officials. THE ONLY FAIR TRIAL IS NO TRIAL!
Picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmer's freedom!
Tuesday November 20, 2007, 8:30 AM picket line,
9:00 AM press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW), Washington, D.C.
Download the flyer in PDF format.
For more info contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280.
For the soul not to be hidden from the facts
August 28, 2007
The following is a commentary by Colombian revolutionary Rodrigo Granda. It gives a personal account of the social conditions and political realities of a country that would cause a man like Ricardo Palmera, for instance, to give up everthing he had, in order to fight for the liberation of the Colombian people and the betterment of humanity at large.
My name is Rodrigo Granda. My compañeros call me Ricardo. I am a
Colombian citizen who was born 58 years ago in a small forgotten town
of the Antioquia department (province) called Frontino. My father was
a versatile man. Coming from a family of miners and muleteers, he was
a professor, mayor, topographer, miner and painter. He belonged to
the Conservative Party without being a "godo", (1*) as then in
Colombia one was born being a conservative or a liberal.
It used to call my attention that, although my father was a
conservative, he never hid his permanent critic to the high echelons
of the Catholic Church hierarchy, because he realized that the church
was bound to the terrenal power of the large estate holdings, that it
acted as a support and usufructuary of privileges, and that it was
obscurantist and reactionary.
In regards to the relation between his membership in the Conservative
Party and my father's general attitude before life, it could be said
that it was like "if the devil were making hosts", because his
thought and social practice were very advanced for his time. Later,
in the sixties, he entered in the Alianza Nacional Popular (ANAPO)
[Popular National Alliance], the political movement founded by
General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. Rojas Pinilla reached the Presidency
of the Republic in 1953, by means of a coup d'etat against the
conservative President Laureano Gómez (1950-1953). The coup of Rojas
Pinilla counted with the support of the leadership and the militancy
of the Liberal Party, and from a wide social base formed by workers
from the rural areas and the city, who saw him as a second
"liberator" (the first was Simón Bolivar), because the policy
followed by the conservatives against the liberals and communists was
to exterminate them by "blood and bullets". Gómez himself proclaimed
it with those words. At that time, the "first violence" began, from
1946 to 1953, unleashed by the liberal-conservative oligarchy, which
had a cost of three hundred thousand dead for our people.
With the arrival of Rojas Pinilla to power, people thought that the
violence would stop and a model of independent economic development
would be undertaken. His slogan was: "Bread, Peace, Justice and
Freedom". Soon the General becomes a dictator, makes the Communists
illegal, imposes press censorship, closes the Congress and names a
Constituency Assembly "of pocket" to be perpetuated in government.
The liberals and conservatives, who see their political and economic
privileges and interest threatened, unite themselves against Rojas,
they overthrow him in 1957 and Rojas seeks asylum in Spain. In the
decade of 1960, Rojas Pinilla returns to the country and founds the
ANAPO, based in caudillismo (strongman), demagoguery and populism,
which attracts the attention of great masses that, again, believe to
see in him the person able to carry out the changes that Colombia
My mother comes from a wealthy family related to land tenancy. My
maternal grandfather was one of the main landowners of the Antiochian
West. With money and some knowledge of medicine, he gained the
respect of the powerful and the obedience of the laborers submitted
to the prevailing relations of feudal character in that zone at the
beginning of the XX century. By virtue of the economic comfort of the
family, my mother's childhood was one of a princess. She did not have
any needs in her childhood. She was transported on "indian back"
through the rustic trails of the mountainous and old Antioquia.
Today, the Fair of the Flowers, in Medellín, is a memory of that
time, only that instead of carrying people, as they did before, the
"silleteros"[men-chair] (before indians) load on their backs the most
varied and beautiful flowers of the region. My mother conserves her
aristocratic customs, although the economic comfort does no longer
exist. Unlike my father, she is a practicing catholic. If the
"heavens" were gained by reason of how much people pray, she would
have already assured herself a place in it. I have no doubt about it.
All mothers, for me, are saints.
From early age I had social sensitivity and great sense of solidarity
with the destitute. I did it as something natural, as it came
spontaneously from me. At 11 years of age I listened in the radio and
recorded in those old acetate discs, the series Caudillos and Crowds.
That was a collection of the best interventions of Jorge Eliécer
Gaitán, the great speaker and liberal caudillo assassinated on April
09 of 1948 by the liberal-conservative oligarchy, event that
unleashes the violence that still persists in the country. I also
listened to the speeches of Laureano Gómez, great admirer of the
Spanish phalange, whom they nicknamed "the monster" due to his
bloodthirsty practices, and the speeches of Gilberto Alzate Avendaño
and Silvio Villegas, formidable speakers and senators of the
By then the Cuban Revolution had already prevailed. Many of the
counter-revolutionaries that emigrated from that country went to
Colombia and were taken to the secondary schools to dictate
conferences on the evils that Communism would bring to Cuba. In Marco
Fidel Suárez School, of Medellín, I attended several "conferences" of
those repulsive subjects that received the rejection of those of us
who attended the last years of secondary education. I remember them
speaking of "executions without trial", of "mothers who the
government took their new born children away from", of "people who
their clocks, their gold chains, automobiles, their houses and other
properties were confiscated" and that "all those who protested were
executed in the act". In synthesis, the calumnies and the insults
were so many that I wanted to know the truth, and thus I began to
listen to Radio Havana Cuba.
The speeches of Fidel Castro impacted me with hurricane forces. Names
before strange to me became familiar: I am talking about heroes of
the young revolution such as Camilo Cienfuegos, Ché Guevara, Ramiro
Valdés, Haydee Santamaría, Melba Hernández and Vilma Espín, and of
martyrs such as Abel Santamaría, Frank País and many others.
I wanted from my heart that what was being done in Cuba we repeated
in Colombia, but I did not have the most remote idea from where to
begin. In my innocence and lack of revolutionary conscience,
I believed everyone who did speak of revolution and change, regardless
of them not having a clear project nor that their words agreed with
what they practiced. The most radical that I knew then was the ANAPO,
whose youth organization I joined because that movement, for me, was
composed by the people, and that movement won the elections of 1970
with Gustavo Rojas Pinilla as candidate to the Presidency of the
The presidential election of 1970 was robbed from Rojas Pinilla by
means of the greatest fraud committed in the history of Colombia. At
8 o'clock on the night of the April 19, when all the counting gave
Rojas as the winner, President Carlos Lleras Restrepo decrees a
curfew commanding all Colombians to go to sleep. Shortly after, at
dawn of the 20th, the conservative Misael Pastrana Borrero candidate
of the National Front shows up as the elected President. After an
insignificant struggle in the Apostolic Nunciature, Rojas Pinilla
reaches a compromise with the government, while the people are
deceived and disillusioned. These events give rise to the Movimiento
19 de Abril [Movement April 19] (M 19). (2*)
In 1971, I take root in Bogotá to work as a banking employee. In that
city I establish my first contacts with the labor, communal and
neigborhood movement, and is there where I meet members of the
Partido Comunista Colombiano [Colombian Communist Party] (PCC). After
studying its program, I request entrance to the party and am assigned
to a cell of the Restrepo district, in the south of the capital.
I could say that it is then when I begin to have class awareness,
and to understand why and how one struggles. I take the first
introductory steps to Marxist-Leninism, and combine the work, the
study and the political activity. To the PCC I owe a great part of my
formation, that later continues and is deepened in the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP). (3*)
In the PCC I undertook local, regional and national tasks. In 1985
the Unión Patriótica [Patriotic Union] (UP) arises, to which
leadership I was promoted in its First Congress. That movement was a
product of the Agreements of the Uribe, signed by President Belisario
Betancur and the FARC. The agreements of the Uribe, which motto was
"Cease of Fire, Truce and Peace", allowed the insurgency to
participate in the electoral competition, that is to say, they could
elect their own mayors, councilmen, deputies and senators, on the
bases that it was the elected functionaries, in particular the
members of the National Congress, who had to approve and to make work
in the day to day life the changes that would end the armed conflict.
The irruption of the UP caused turmoil in Colombian politics for the
number of councilmen, deputies, mayors and senators that it managed
to elect, and for the voting obtained by its presidential candidate,
Jaime Pardo Leal, ex- magistrate of the Superior Court of Bogotá and
member of the PCC, later assassinated by the State terrorism in 1986.
That turmoil scares the national oligarchy that undertakes the route
of the physical elimination of that movement, without concerning for
the methods used. The high spheres of the government stimulate the
mafia groups to attempt against the leadership of the UP and give
green light to the Armed Forces to organize the paramilitary groups,
while the political chiefs, the landowners and the obscurantist
sectors of the clergy, that see their political and economic power
threatened, begin to fuse their interests with the mafia.
Although I rejected all the pressures exerted against me to try to
turn me into an "intermediary" of their plans to divide the guerrilla
movement, and that I also refused the unacceptable conditions that
the government raised as requirement to excarcerate a group of
so-called FARC guerrillas, I was left in freedom, against my will, on
the 4 of July of this year. Mr. Uribe said to the country and the
world that my excarceration took place for reason of State, because
he had received the request of the President of France, Nicholas
Sarcozy, to release me unconditionally. Uribe added that he had not
asked the French President what were the motivations that move him to
make such request, and that in his decision confidence was put ahead
of any other interest.
I am frankly between those who ask oneself what is the role that the
President of France plays in this plot. My conviction is that the
High Peace Commissioner, by order of Uribe, resorted to blackmail so
that I lead a demobilization from jail, of dark individuals who have
nothing to do with the guerrilla movement. The plan consisted in
leaving the true guerrillas in jail, and that the false ones, chosen
by the government of Uribe, would leave with me.
The "unilateral measures" of the government of Uribe were part of a
meticulous plan, whose second part consisted of rescuing, by blood
and bullets, the ex-deputies of the Assembly of Valle del Cauca who
were prisoners of the FARC-EP in mountains of the south of the
country. With that commando action, the government of Uribe wanted to
do something similar to the "Entebbe Operation" (5*) or to the rescue
of the hostages captured by the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru
[Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement] (MRTA) in the embassy of Japan,
in Lima, Peru. (6*) This became known when on June 28 of this year
the News Agency Nueva Colombia [New Colombia] (ANNCOL) informed on an
attempt of rescue of the mentioned prisoners, executed on the 18 of
that same month by a unidentified commando, that caused the death, in
the middle of the crossfire, of 11 of the 12 prisoners of that group,
who were in control of the organization since the 11 of April of
2002, and who were part of the group of 56 people included in the
proposal of humanitarian exchange.
The Colombian government failed in what we can define as a combat and
propaganda operation, based on an attempted "two-pronged effect" that
would take place between the unilateral excarceration of so-called
FARC guerrillas, and a commando action to rescue prisoners in control
of the FARC, that would show that the humanitarian exchange was
"unnecessary". If the rescue would have been successful, the
government would had projected, on the one hand, an image of
"moderation" and "indulgence", by way of the liberation of the
"guerrillas" who accepted their conditions, and on the other hand, a
successful vision of his militarist policy. In other words, if it is
possible to defeat the guerrilla, there is no need for humanitarian
exchanges and much less for undertaking a peace dialogue. As far as
me goes, they would have deported me to Paraguay to put me on trial
under false charges of kidnapping and murder of the daughter of ex-
After the failure of this plan, the national and international outcry
for the humanitarian exchange has multiplied, as has been expressed
in the massive mobilizations of this past July 5. We wish for the
exchange to happen, we continue working for it and are convinced that
it is absolutely viable. I am convinced that the international
climate is very favorable. We continue calling on all the governments
and peoples of the world, to personalities and organizations in
general, to accompany us to achieve this noble objective.
I believe that the presidents of the Group of the Eight recognize the
existence of the social and armed conflict that Colombia is living
through. I observe that in their most recent declaration they do not
talk of kidnapped but of hostages; I notice that they support the
steps taken by France, Spain and Switzerland in favor of the
dialogue; I ascertain that they talk about the parts in conflict,
which constitutes recognition that we the FARC-EP are a belligerent
force. For that same reason, I conclude that it looks very bad on
their part to continue labelling us as "terrorists", after having
explicitly recognized that we are a movement of national liberation.
The Colombian government must leave its obstinacy aside and show
political will to carry out the humanitarian exchange. This does not
imply that the prevailing political system will crumble or that the
Armed Forces will feel defeated, neither that Colombia will become
balkanised. It is simply to accept the solution of a problem that
concerns and it is in the best interest to all the parts. As we
arrived at this point, it is necessary to refute the lie propagated
by the Colombian government, when stating that the clearing of the
municipalities of Pradera and Florida, requested by the FARC-EP,
would be for an indefinite time. That clearing would only be for
between 45 and 60 days, sufficient time to give security to the
guerrillas, to the government; to the countries, the organizations
and the accompanying personalities; and to the retained of both
sides. The clearing of those municipalities is, then, an urgent
Rodrigo Granda (Ricardo) is a combatant of the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia - People's Army, a member of its International
Relations Commission of which he was the highest hierarchical
representative in the exterior until the time of his kidnapping and
for that reason he is known as the Chancellor of the FARC-EP.
(1*)- Term designated to the most reactionary elements of that party.
(2*)-The M19 was an insurgent movement initially formed by youth coming from the ANAPO, that was demobilized in 1991 and it was transformed then into the Democratic Alliance - M 19 (AD-M19). At the present time a, part of their old cadres and leaders, among them Antonio NavarroWolf, form part along with other political and social parties and organizations, of Polo Democrático Alternativo [Democratic Alternative Pole] (PDA).
(3*)-In their VII National Conference of Guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia make the decision to become People’s Army, reason why, from then on, its name is Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP).
(4*) – Taken from El Mundo Internacional [International World] of May 27, 2007, in www.elmundo.es
(5*)-It refers to the rescue operation of more than one hundred Israeli and Jewish hostages of other nationalities, made by special commandos of the Armed Forces of Israel, in July of 1976, at the airport of Entebbe, Uganda.
(6*)-It refers to the rescue operation of the 72 hostages who the MRTA kept during four months in the residence of the Ambassador of Japan in Lima, made by special commandos of the Peruvian Armed Forces in April of 1997.
Victory! Mistrial Declared Yet Again in Palmera Case!
Washington, D.C. - Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera won another victory against the Bush administration and U.S. policy in court today. Judge Royce Lamberth was forced to declare a mistrial.
U.S. prosecutors are refusing to comment on a their loss in a case where they claimed Professor Palmera and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are drug traffickers. The mistrial was declared as result of a hung jury. After four weeks of U.S. prosecutors telling the jurors Palmera was a narco-trafficker, seven of the jurors wanted a not guilty verdict. This is a significant victory for Colombian freedom fighter Palmera. It destroys the U.S. government’s attempt to paint the FARC as drug runners and terrorists. Despite this, U.S. prosecutor McNeil, with plenty of money and staff, is claiming he will try again.
Ricardo Palmera joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia 20 years ago, after mass repression, torture and assassination of political activists proved to him that in Colombia the road to peaceful change is closed. In court Palmera explains that his decision to take up arms was one that was made for the sake of Colombia: “It is our duty; my generation has never known one day of peace in Colombia.”
He told about how the decision he made was a heart-wrenching one - watching his family leave the country, leaving his home, risking his life - but as he put it in his own words, “I did not have the courage to take off running and leave all the dead bodies of the people who had struggled behind me. I had to choose between my family and the desire to work for real change in Colombia.”
Repeatedly, the U.S. prosecution tried to find ties between the FARC and narco-trafficking, stretching the truth beyond its limits. In talking about the prosecution’s witnesses, defense attorney Robert Tucker told the jury, “These people were just flat out intimidated…some of the testimony has been absurd, in fact some of the evidence is totally, totally insulting.”
After being asked to admit to ties to coca countless time, Professor Palmera himself spoke about the problem of cocaine in Colombia. “Farmers growing coca leaf is a big problem in Colombia. A serious problem that affects the entire country economically, socially and politically as well as affecting its international relations…The poor believe in the mirage of coca production to relieve them of their misery.”
During his trial Professor Palmera testified that in the entire 20 years he has been in the FARC he never knew of a single cocaine lab controlled by the FARC, that he has never encouraged another human being to grow coca and that he has never exchanged drugs for money.
After five days of jury deliberations Judge Lambert was forced to declare the mistrial.
Tom Burke, of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, said, “What a joy to see Ricardo Palmera beat the U.S. empire again! It is no wonder the Bush administration is losing its wars in Iraq and Colombia, when they cannot defeat one lone revolutionary in a Washington D.C. court with everything stacked against him.”
Burke continued, “This is a political trial that should not be taking place in the U.S. Ricardo Palmera is a prisoner of war - a dirty war the U.S. is fighting to benefit big corporations like Occidental, Drummond and Chiquita banana. For three years Ricardo Palmera was held in solitary confinement under special administrative measures. We say it is time to set him free. Free Ricardo Palmera!”
Protest September 17 in Washington D.C. -- Trial of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera
Washington D.C. - the Bush Administration is turning justice on its head with the trial of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is calling a protest at the D.C. Federal Court Building to demand Palmera's immediate release. Supporters will support Professor Palmera in the courtroom.
Ricardo Palmera is a peace negotiator for Colombia’s rebels - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). More than three years ago Palmera was in Ecuador to meet a UN official and discuss prisoner exchanges between the FARC and the Colombian government. U.S. and Colombian agents kidnapped and extradited him to the United States where he sits in solitary confinement. Ricardo Palmera is a political prisoner who should not be on trial in the U.S.
Professor Palmera's trials are anything but ordinary. In the first trial American jurors did not find him guilty, so Judge Hogan declared a mistrial. Then at the start of the second trial, Judge Hogan was caught cheating with US Prosecutor Ken Kohl and had to step down. Next, Palmera beat four counts against him, including "terrorism" and kidnapping charges. The jury found Palmera guilty of "conspiracy to kidnap" --referring to his membership in the FARC and the FARC capture of prisoners in their war with the Colombian government. The FARC is a 28,000-member rebel army that controls wide areas of Colombia where it is the only sort of government. The FARC plans to overthrow the corrupt U.S. backed government, distribute land to the peasants, replace drug crops with food crops, and end foreign corporate domination of the economy. Colombian workers and peasants will have power in the New Colombia.
"The U.S. government has no right to put Ricardo Palmera on trial." says Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo< Palmera. "The Bush administration putting the FARC on trial for drug trafficking is the same as looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The evidence simply does not exist. It is an excuse for military adventure." Burke continues, "The U.S. prosecutors are losing this trial before they even started. Ironically, while Colombian prisoner exchange negotiations begin, the FARC’s negotiator is sitting in solitary confinement, kidnapped by Bush."
Angela Denio, also of the National Committee and Students for a Democratic Society says, "Ricardo Palmera is a freedom fighter. He stands tall compared to his accusers. President Bush is desperate, surrounded by rats abandoning his ship of state because of all the lying, cheating, and corruption. That includes Colombian President Uribe who is tied to narco-traffickers and paramilitary death squads. The truth is coming out now."
Angela urges all progressive people to join the Monday, September 17th protest, stating, "We plan to see Professor Palmera and show our public support. We will not allow the Bush administration to criminalize the fight for freedom and justice. People around the world are watching the travesty of Palmera's trial. In his other trials, Palmera was not allowed witnesses, and the Judge and Prosecutor limited what Palmera could say. The only fair trial is no trial - we demand Professor Palmera’s immediate release."
Free Ricardo Palmera!
Picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmera’s freedom!
Monday, September 17, 2007, 8:30 a.m. picket line, 9:00 a.m. press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW), Washington, D.C.
For more info contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280.
Washington D.C. - Protesters from eight U.S. states gathered here at
the start of a new trial for Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera,
Aug. 20. The protesters chanted, "Free Ricardo Palmera! Stop Plan
Colombia!" and "The people of Colombia are under attack. What do we
do? Stand up, fight back!" The activists then proceeded into the
Washington D.C. Federal Court building.
Inside the spacious ceremonial courtroom, under the historical
portraits of U.S. Supreme Court judges, the solidarity activists
waved, held clenched fists in the air and smiled to Ricardo Palmera as
he entered. Professor Palmera raised his clenched fist and then held
his open hands over his heart - once again happy to see his American
and Colombian supporters. Judge Royce Lamberth read the charges
against Professor Palmera and instructed the jury pool of nearly 100
people. The charges accuse Ricardo Palmera, a leading peace negotiator
for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), of producing
and trafficking five kilograms or more of cocaine to the U.S.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera was at the
opening day of the trial and said, "The U.S. government has no right
to put Ricardo Palmera on trial. This trial is ridiculous. Putting the
FARC on trial for drug trafficking is the same as looking for weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq. The evidence simply does not exist. The
U.S. government can only insinuate or fabricate the evidence."
Burke continued, "Palmera is a good man who has done nothing wrong. He
is fighting for social justice and the liberation of the Colombian
people from solitary confinement in a U.S. prison. President Bush is
desperate because of growing public concern about lying, cheating and
corruption. Now the truth is coming out about Colombian President
Uribe's ties to narco-traffickers and paramilitary death squads. Bush
is backing the wrong side in Colombia's civil war. Bush is behind the
bad guys and the drug traffickers."
Angela Denio, also of the National Committee and a member of Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS) said, "We were happy to see Ricardo
Palmera and hope he is successful in defending himself and can sway
the jury through his testimony again. The tragedy here is that paid
professional liars and drug traffickers looking for lighter sentences
will be given more time to testify than Professor Palmera. The Bush
administration is criminalizing the fight for freedom and justice.
People around the world are watching the travesty of Palmera's trial.
In his other trials, Palmera was not allowed witnesses and the judge
and prosecutor limited what Palmera could say. The only fair trial is
no trial. We demand Professor Palmera's immediate release."
Professor Palmera's first U.S. trial on terrorism and kidnapping
charges ended with a hung jury and Judge Hogan declared a mistrial.
Afterwards, Judge Hogan was caught cheating with U.S. Prosecutor Ken
Kohl and was forced to step down. Judge Royce Lambert replaced Hogan
on the bench and presided over Palmera's second trial. Palmera won a
victory of sorts again when the jury could not agree on four counts
against him, including 'terrorism' and kidnapping charges. However,
the Bush administration got what it wanted because the jury found
Palmera guilty of belonging to a 'conspiracy to kidnap' referring to
his membership in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The FARC is a 28,000-member rebel army that controls wide areas of
Colombia, where it acts as the de facto government. The FARC plans to
overthrow the corrupt U.S.-backed government, distribute land to the
peasants, replace drug crops with food crops and end foreign corporate
domination of the economy by empowering working people to run things.
The FARC wants the workers and peasants to rule instead of foreign
corporations, rich landlords and drug traffickers. Professor Palmera
joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia back in 1989,
following the extermination of his fellow Patriotic Union (a political
party) members by the Colombian state and its death squads. Over 4000
Patriotic Union members were murdered - including two presidential
candidates, eight congressmen, 70 councilmen, dozens of deputies and
mayors, hundreds of trade unionists, communist and peasant leaders,
students and youth. Professor Palmera, in his dedication to building a
just and peaceful society, joined the FARC when all avenues to reform
were closed. Today, Ricardo Palmera continues his fight for the
Colombian people and the oppressed and exploited everywhere.
Trial of Ricardo Palmera Continues
August 26, 2007
The trial of Ricardo Palmera will continue during the week of August 27. Members of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will be present in the court room Monday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, August 28.
The trial will take place in the courtroom of Judge Royce Lambert
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW)
Washington, D.C. It should start around 9:30 am.
Protest August 20 in Washington D.C. - Colombian Revolutionary Ricardo Palmera On Trial Again
August 10, 2007
Washington D.C. - the Bush Administration is continuing its trials
against Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera. The National
Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is calling a protest at the D.C.
Federal Court Building to demand Palmera's immediate release.
Professor Palmera's supporters plan to picket the courts prior to jury
Ricardo Palmera is a peace negotiator for Colombia's rebels - the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He was kidnapped in Ecuador
and extradited to the United States where he sits in solitary
confinement. Palmera is a political prisoner who should not be on
trial in the U.S.
Professor Palmera's first trial ended with a hung jury and Judge Hogan
declared a mistrial. Afterwards, Judge Hogan was caught cheating with
US Prosecutor Ken Kohl and was forced to step down. Judge Royce
Lambert replaced Hogan on the bench and presided over Palmera's second
trial. Palmera won a victory of sorts again when the jury could not
agree on four counts against him, including "terrorism" and kidnapping
charges. However, the Bush administration got what it wanted because
the jury found Palmera guilty of belonging to a "conspiracy to kidnap"
referring to his membership in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC). The FARC is a 28,000-member rebel army that controls
wide areas of Colombia where it acts as the de facto government. The
FARC plans to overthrow the corrupt U.S. backed government, distribute
land to the peasants, replace drug crops with food crops, and end
foreign corporate domination of the economy by empowering workers to
"The U.S. government has no right to put Ricardo Palmera on trial, and
the upcoming drug trial is ludicrous," says Tom Burke of the National
Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. "Putting the FARC on trial for drug
trafficking is the same as looking for weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq. The evidence simply does not exist. The U.S. Government can
only insinuate or fabricate the evidence."
Burke continues "Palmera is a good man who has done nothing wrong.
Ricardo Palmera continues to fight for social justice and the
liberation of the Colombian people from his prison cell. President
Bush is desperate because of growing public concern about lying,
cheating, and Colombian President Uribe's ties to narco-traffickers
and paramilitary death squads. The truth is coming out now."
Angela Denio, also of the National Committee, urges all progressive
people to join the August 20th protest, stating, "It will be
interesting to hear Ricardo Palmera defend himself and sway the jury
through his testimony again. The tragedy here is that paid
professional liars and drug traffickers who are looking for lighter
sentences will be given more time to testify than will Professor
Palmera. The Bush administration is criminalizing the fight for
freedom and justice. People around the world are watching the travesty
of Palmera's trial. In his other trials, Palmera was not allowed
witnesses, and the Judge and Prosecutor limited what Palmera could
say. The only fair trial is no trial - we demand Professor Palmera's
Free Ricardo Palmera!
Picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmera's freedom!
Monday, August 20th, 2007, 8:30 a.m. picket line, 9:00 a.m. press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW), Washington, D.C.
For more info contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at
AGOSTO 20, 2007 -- PROTESTA EN WASHINGTON, DC POR EL NUEVO JUICIO A RICARDO PALMERA
La administración de Bush ha continuado sus absurdos juicios en contra del revolucionario colombiano Ricardo Palmera (Simón Trinidad).. El Comité Nacional para la Libertad de Ricardo Palmera (CNLRP) invita a un piquete de protesta a todos los que demandan la libertad inmediata de Palmera.Está protesta se llevará a cabo frente al edificio de la Corte Federal en Washington, DC.en donde se hará la selección para los jurado de este nuevo juicio.
Ricardo Palmera fue el negociador por parte de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), en las negociaciones para la búsqueda de la paz en Colombia llevadas a cabo con el gobierno de Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002). Palmera fue prácticamente secuestrado del Ecuador hacia Colombia y posteriormente fue extraditado hacia Washington, DC.,,Estados Unidos (EE.UU.). Desde el día de su llegada (12 -31- 2003) hasta el presente ha sido mantenido en una celda bajo el regímen SAM-( Special Administratives Measures- Medidas Administrativas Especiales).Esto quiere decir, confinamiento solitario, encerrado las 24 horas del día, no puede ver a nadie, sin derecho a recibir visitas, ni recibir o hacer llamadas teléfonicas, ni enviar ni recibir correspondencia, tampoco puede ser entrevistado por los medios de comunicación. No se le permitió la libertad de escoger su abogado y el gobierno de Bush le nombró abogados de oficio, estos son sólo con los que se puede entrevistar con Palmera, pero en presencia de los alguaciles de la prisión. Ricardo Palmera es un preso político colombiano que no debería ser juzgado por las cortes ni acusado por el gobierno de Bush. Ricardo no ha cometido ningún delito en el territorio de los EE.UU.
En el primer juicio que se le hizo al profesor Palmera en la Corte Federal de Washington DC, fue declarado nulo y viciado. Posteriormente, el juez Hogan, quien llevaba el caso tuvo que renunciar por haber violado los reglamentos para favorecer a los fiscales. En su reemplazó fue nombrado Royce Lamberth para el segundo juicio. Nuevamente, Palmera ganó otra victoria al no poderse poner de acuerdo el jurado en los cuatro (4) de los cincos cargos, entre los que se incluían el de "terrorismo y secuestro" .De todas maneras, la administración Bush consiguió lo que quería porque el jurado lo encontró culpable de pertener a una "conspiración para secuestrar" por ser miembro de las FARC. Las FARC son una organización revolucionaria que los gobiernos y los expertos del conflicto social y armado de Colombia, dice que tiene 28.000 miembros en armas, controlan algunas regiones y areas en donde actúan como gobierno y tienen influencia en todo el territorio de Colombia. El objetivo de las FARC es derrotar al corrupto, torturador, asesino, dependiente y sumiso gobierno de Colombia, cipayamente acepta las ordenes de los EE.UU. Las FARC se han planteado un gobierno de Reconstrucción y Reconciliación Nacional, que sustituya los cultivos ilícitos por cosechas alimenticias y que termine con la dominación extranjera de la economía y lleve a los trabajadores a administrar sus propios medios de producción para alcanzar mejores beneficios para sus vidas.
El gobierno de EE.UU. no tiene ningún derecho a tener encarcelado y poner en juicio tras juicio a Ricardo Palmera.En este juicio venidero la acusación es por tráfico de drogas,será otro juicio absurdo. Tom Burke, vocero del CNLRP, dijó : " Poner a las FARC en juicio por tráfico de drogas es lo mismo que buscar las armas de destrucción masivas en Irak. Simplemente, las evidencias no existen. El gobierno de EE.UU. únicamente puede insinuar la fabricación de evidencias".
Por otra parte, Angela Denio del CNLRP, urgió a la gente progresista hacerse presente en la protesta del 20 de agosto, y dijó : "Otra vez, volverá a ser interesante escuchar el testimonio Ricardo Palmera, defendiéndose e inclinar el jurado a su favor. La tragedia aquí es la que darán los mentirosos informantes pagados y los convictos que buscan la reducción de sus sentencias a través de testimonios fabricados en contra del profesor Ricardo Palmera. La administración de Bush ha estado criminalizando la lucha por la libertad y la justicia social. La opinión pública a través del mundo ha estado mirando la parodía del juicio en contra de Palmera, a quien no se le ha permitido presentar un sólo testigo y su propio testimonio ha sido limitado por el juez y el fiscal. El único juicio justo, es ningún juicio.
LIBERTAD PARA RICARDO PALMERA
PIQUETE Y CONFERENCIA DE PRENSA
¿ Cuándo ? Lunes agosto 20 a las 8 : 30 a. m./ Conferencia de Prensa a las 9 : a.m.
¿ Dónde ? Frente al edificio de la Corte Federal ( 333 Constitution Ave. N.W.) Washington DC.
Para más información favor llamar a Tom Burke al teléfono (773) 844-3612 o Mick Kelly al teléfono (612) 715-3280.
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera convicted by U.S. court
July 11, 2007
Bush criminalizes the fight for liberation
On Monday, July 9, 2007, in the second trial on the same charges,
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera was convicted of conspiring to
take hostages. The hostages are three U.S. military contractors -
foreign mercenaries fighting in Colombia's civil war. While conducting
electronic spying, the three were shot down and captured over the
territory held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Their capture and imprisonment takes place in the context of the Bush
administration intervening more and more in Colombia's civil war. The
U.S. is fighting a dirty war in Colombia, with 800 U.S. military
advisors and 500 U.S. military contractors. Like a small-scale Iraq
war, the U.S. military arms, trains and directs the Colombian military
and its paramilitary death squads. Bush and the U.S. generals are in
charge. President Uribe takes orders. Uribe signed the papers to
extradite Ricardo Palmera to the U.S., a violation of the Colombian
The Colombian civil war pits the peasant and worker revolutionaries of
the FARC against the wealthy and corrupt Colombian elite. The Bush
administration fully supports President Uribe, as he becomes entangled
in scandal after scandal involving narco-traffickers in his own
On the other side is the FARC - incorruptible, dynamic, growing and
expanding, a force to be reckoned with. The FARC is attracting leaders
like Ricardo Palmera, a college professor from a wealthy banking
family, who seeks peace and justice, but sees no other avenue for
reform and joins the revolution. The FARC promises to turn the world
Ricardo Palmera was a leading negotiator for peace and prisoner
exchanges for the FARC. During a prisoner exchange negotiation, the
U.S. kidnapped Palmera in Ecuador and extradited him to the U.S. in
2004. Along with FARC member Anayibe "Sonia" Rojas, he faces bogus
criminal trials in U.S. courts.
There is no fair trial. Ricardo Palmera is held in solitary
confinement, with no family visits, no friends, no reporters allowed.
The only time he sees friendly faces is during his trial when
supporters from across the country pack the courtroom. Palmera's
defense lawyer is handpicked by the U.S. government, given little
resources, and allowed no witnesses. The U.S. prosecutor spends
hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is allowed a stream of
witnesses, many who are paid. It was hard for the U.S. government to
lose, but lose they did.
Professor Palmera beat the U.S. government in the first case with his
own testimony, compelling some jurors to refuse to find him guilty.
Judge Hogan declared a mistrial. At the start of the second trial, on
the same exact charges, public defender Bob Tucker caught Judge Hogan
cheating with U.S. prosecutor Ken Kohl. Against Hogan's own ruling,
the Judge and prosecutor conspired to find out from the jury
foreperson why they lost. Judge Hogan was forced to step down - to
So now Ricardo Palmera is found guilty on one count of intent to take
hostages. The jury appears deadlocked on the other charges and one can
only imagine the horse trading taking place. The only surprise in the
railroading of Ricardo Palmera is how bumbling and foolish the U.S.
government has been.
Putting the FARC on trial in a U.S. criminal court as part of the Bush
'war on terror' is intended to criminalize revolutionaries. In the
eyes of most Colombians and Americans who know of the case, it is more
proof that the U.S. empire is growing desperate and acting wildly in
an attempt to hold its grip.
The Colombian people understand there is no justice in the Colombian
system, with impunity for the powerful and wealthy. Now too, they
understand American injustice as the White House criminal Scooter
Libby skips free under Bush's orders, while Ricardo Palmera returns to
a lonely prison cell. Palmera can hold his head high, knowing he
struggles with the people of Colombia against poverty, misery and
death brought by the U.S. dirty war in Colombia. Professor Palmera
will be preparing himself for the next criminal trial where he will -
unbelievably - be charged with drug trafficking to the U.S.
We will be mobilizing protests and filling the courtroom starting
around Aug. 20. Join us to free Ricardo Palmera!
FARC member 'Sonia' sentenced to 17 years
July 4, 2007
Washington, D.C. - Anayibe Rojas Valderama, a member of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also know as 'Sonia',
was sentenced here, July 2 by Judge James Robertson to nearly 17
years in federal prison on charges of shipping cocaine to the United
"What took place in this courtroom today was anything but justice.
This is a frame-up, pure and simple," stated Mick Kelly outside the
D.C. courtroom. Kelly, who helps lead the defense work for another
Colombian political prisoner, Ricardo Palmera, added, "In the course
of the trial the prosecution called on a band of professional liars
to testify. There was the $15,000-a month DEA informant, Rocio
Alvarez. Then there were the tales of the retired Colombian National
Police officer, Mauricio Moreno, who spoke of plots to sell cocaine
to the paramilitaries and then steal it. And then there was 'Juan
Valdez' whose testimony was a collection of lies."
During the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Carmen Hernandez
pressed for a new trial. She cited the fact that the testimony of
'Juan Valdez' was completely discredited and this amounted to new
evidence. She also pointed out that her interviews with the jurors
after Sonia's conviction indicated that they were influenced by the
'Juan Valdez' testimony. Judge Robinson agreed that the 'Juan Valdez'
testimony was dubious at best, but then he ruled against a new trial.
Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Hernandez told the press that
the trial is not the way things are supposed to work under the
constitution. Hernandez was not allowed to make needed investigations
and the instructions to the jury were flawed.
Sonia speaks out
Before she was sentenced, Sonia, who was wearing an orange prison
jumpsuit, told the court that she was innocent of the charges. She
repeatedly proclaimed her innocence throughout her statement.
She related that she had been born to a poor farm family in an
outlying area without a government presence. She only received two
years of schooling and had to attend school barefoot because of her
family's poverty. She got her first pair of shoes at age 14. It was
because of the conditions in her area that she joined the FARC
She was arrested in February of 2004 on her brother's farm and
charged with rebellion. However, she was extradited to the United
States 13 months later on charges of export of large amounts of
cocaine to the United States - the charge she continues to deny.
She asked how it can be explained that, if she was a major drug
dealer, her family continues to live in poverty and does not have
enough to eat. She also said that family members of Colombians
convicted on similar charges in the United States cannot visit
because they are denied visas. Even if her family could get visas
they could not afford airfare to visit her.
The Bush administration labeled her as a 'terrorist' because of her
FARC membership. Because of that label, she was kept in solitary
confinement for two years of her time here, in spite of never having
been charged with infraction of prison rules. She was subjected to
severe treatment, for instance being allowed to bathe only twice a
week - and then only in handcuffs. Sonia described her solitary
confinement as "psychological torture."
Sonia noted that during a brief period she had been held in the
general population of the District of Columbia jail and had been able
to study and learn some English. She asked that the 'terrorist' label
be lifted from her so that she not be held in maximum security and
would be able to continue to study and learn.
"It is sad that a lie has become justice in this court because I have
not done what they say I have," said Sonia.
More to come
According to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Fisher, "The prosecution
of these FARC members, the first of its kind in the United States, was
made possible because of the exceptional cooperation of Colombian
authorities and the hard work and efforts of the DEA agents and
federal prosecutors who, working together, were essential to the
successful conclusion of this important case."
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera responds:
"This case demonstrates that the Bush administration will stop at
nothing to criminalize the struggle for free and independent
Colombia. Sonia is not a drug dealer. She is hero who is being made
to suffer for her efforts to bring justice to Colombia. Her frame-up
was made in the U.S.A. and was assisted by Colombia's death-squad
In a related case, the trial of FARC spokesman and peace negotiator
Ricardo Palmera has moved to the jury phase.
Burke urges all progressive people to support the efforts to for the
immediate release of Colombian political prisoners held in the U.S.
Protest June 18th in D.C.
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera endures retrial
Washington D.C. - Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera is on trial for a second time under orders from the Bush Administration. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is calling for a protest to demand his immediate release on June 18th at the D.C. Federal Court Building. Professor Palmera’s supporters will then pack the courtroom.
Ricardo Palmera is a peace negotiator for Colombia’s rebels - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He was kidnapped in Ecuador and extradited to the United States where he sits in solitary confinement.
Palmera’s first trial ended with a hung jury. Afterwards, presiding Judge Hogan had to step down or recuse himself from the case. Judge Hogan was caught colluding with U.S. Prosecutor Ken Kohl. Judge Royce Lambert, a Ronald Reagan appointee, is Hogan’s replacement on the bench.
“The U.S. government has no right to put Ricardo Palmera on trial, let alone keep trying him until they get a guilty verdict,” says Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. “Palmera is a good man who has done nothing wrong. Palmera spends all his energy fighting for social justice and the liberation of the Colombian people, who live under a U.S.-backed death squad government. President Bush and President Uribe are desperate because of growing public concern in both countries about lying, cheating, and paramilitary death squad murders.”
Angela Denio, also of the National Committee, urges all progressive people to join the June 18th protest, stating, “The Bush administration and the increasingly isolated President Uribe are criminalizing the fight for freedom and justice. People around the world are watching the travesty of Palmera’s trial. Palmera is not allowed witnesses, and the Judge and Prosecutor are even trying to limit what Palmera can say. The only fair trial is no trial - we demand Professor Palmera’s immediate release.”
Free Ricardo Palmera!
Picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmera’s freedom!
Monday, June 18th, 2007
8:30 a.m. picket line, 9:00 a.m. press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW)
National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera
For more info contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280.
Protest Demands Freedom for Colombian Revolutionary
June 12, 2007
Washington D.C. - The chant "Free Ricardo Palmera! Hands off
Colombia!" rang out in front of the Federal Courthouse here, June 4,
as members of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera held a
picket line to demand his release. The picket line coincided with the
onset of Palmera's second trial. Members of Students for a Democratic
Society from Asheville, North Carolina and the Colombian Action
Network participated in the protest.
Palmera's first trial ended with a hung jury. Presiding judge Thomas
Hogan then had to remove himself from the case, when the defense
brought to light Hogan's secret maneuvering to give the prosecution
an unfair advantage. Reagan appointee Judge Royce C. Lambert is
presiding over the current trial.
"Ricardo Palmera is a hero who has devoted his entire life to working
and fighting for the liberation of the Colombian people," said Mick
Kelly, of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, speaking
outside the courthouse. "He has done nothing wrong. The only fair
trial is no trail and what is going to take place in that courtroom
is the real crime. There are reports that Ricardo Palmera will be
allowed few or no witnesses on his behalf. And we know that a number
of the witnesses for the prosecution are liars who can not keep their
After the picket line and press conference, supporters of Palmera
entered the courtroom where the final stages of jury selection were
under way. Palmera flashed a big smile as his backers discreetly
raised their fists and gave him the thumbs up sign.
Palmera, who is also known as Simon Trinidad, is a leading member of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and represented
the rebel group in peace negotiations with Colombian government.
Palmera was kidnapped in Quito, Ecuador by the FBI, brought to
Colombia and sent to United States. Currently he is in solitary
confinement in Washington D.C. Incredibly enough, he is charged with
'hostage taking,' in relation to an incident in Colombia where the
FARC shot down a plane that had some U.S. mercenaries on board.
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is organizing a
picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmera's freedom
on June 18, 2007.
8:30 AM : picket line
9:00 AM : press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW)
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera faces second trial
June 1, 2007 For Immediate Release
Picket line and press conference for Ricardo Palmera's freedom
June 4, 2007, 8:30 a.m. picket line, 9:00 a.m. press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave. NW)
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera is on trial for a second time.
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will hold a picket line
and press conference calling for his immediate release on June 4 at
the D.C. Federal Court Building to coincide with the opening day of
arguments in his case. Palmera's supporters will then pack the
Ricardo Palmera was a peace negotiator for Colombia's rebels - the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He was kidnapped in Ecuador
and extradited to the United States where he sits in solitary
Palmera's first trial ended with a hung jury. Afterwards, presiding
Judge Hogan had to recuse himself from the case, when it came to light
that Hogan was colluding with the prosecution. The upcoming trial will
be presided over by Ronald Reagan appointee, Judge Royce C. Lambert.
"The U.S. government has no right to proceed with this case," says Tom
Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. "He has done
nothing wrong. Palmera has spent his entire life fighting for social
justice and the liberation of the Colombian people, who live under a
U.S.-backed death squad government."
Mick Kelly, also of the National Committee, urges all progressive
people to join the June 4 protest, stating, "The Bush administration
is trying to criminalize the fight for justice and freedom. Everyone
should keep his or her eyes on this trial. There are reports that
Palmera will not be allowed any witnesses on his behalf and that the
prosecution will try to limit what Palmera can talk about. The only
fair trial is no trial - and we need to demand Professor Palmera's
Free Ricardo Palmera!
For further information contact:
Mick Kelly: 612-715-3280
Tom Burke: 773-844-3612
Resolution in Solidarity with Sonia
May 17, 2007
Sonia is a Colombian guerrilla and prisoner of war extradited to the U.S.
Sonia is 34 years of age and the mother of a 6-year-old boy. She was
imprisoned for a year in the Buen Pastor prison in Bogotá in
oppressive conditions of isolation, deprived of all her rights as a
After strong pressure on the part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to force here to declare
herself against her organization and to deny herself, the Colombian
government gave her over to be extradited to the U.S., chained by
hands and feet, put in the U.S. prisons, where she was imprisoned for
more than a year and when she is done being processed, faces being
condemned to 29 years of imprisonment, in total isolation, with only
one hour of sun a day, and two showers per week, away from her family
and without knowledge of the language.
We request that everyone who is part of the FDIM implement campaigns
of solidarity with Sonia around the world until we win her return to
The XIV International Conference of the International Federation of
Democratic Women (FDIM)
Caracas, Venezeula April 12, 2007
Resolución de Solidaridad con Sonia de Federacion Democratica Internacional de las Mujeres (FDIM)
May 9, 2007
Sonia es una guerrillera colombiana, prisionera de guerra, extraditada
a Estados Unidos.
Sonia, de 34 años de edad es madre de un niño de 6 años. Permaneción
un año en prisión en la cárcel del Buen Pastor, en Bogotá, en
oprobiosas condiciones de aislamiento, privada de todos sus derechos
como prisionera política.
Después de fuertes presiones por parte de la DEA y de la CIA para que
declarara en contra de su organización, y habiéndose negado a ello, el
gobierno colombiano la entregó a Estados Unidos siendo trasladada,
encadenada de pies y manos, a las cárceles de ese país, donde
permanece desde hace más de un año y donde acaba de ser procesada y
condenada a 29 años de prisión infame, en total aislamiento, con sólo
una hora de sol al día y dos baños por semana, alejada de sus
familiares y sin conocer el idioma.
Pedimos a la FDIM que se implementen campañas de solidaridad con Sonia
en todo el mundo hasta lograr su regreso a Colombia.
XIV Congreso internacional de la FDIM
Caracas, 12 de abril de 2007
Judge Cheats, Forced to Step Down in Ricardo Palmera Case
March 29, 2007
By Angela Denio
Washington, D.C. - In an intense start to the second trial of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera, the presiding judge, Thomas F. Hogan, was forced to step down March 26, thus ending his involvement in the Palmera case. Participants in the International Day of Action to Free Ricardo Palmera were present in the courtroom and hailed this turn of events.
Judge Hogan presided over Palmera’s first trial, where Palmera, the peace negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), faced injustice after injustice. In the end Judge Hogan’s cheating finally caught up with him.
At a March 19 pretrial hearing it was revealed that the judge and prosecution had secret dealings with one another. After the first trial ended, Judge Hogan had allowed the prosecution to speak to the jury foreperson about the mistrial. Their request was sealed, meaning the defense was never told that this was happening.
Paul Wolf, a lawyer closely observing the trial, explained what happened, "There was so much cheating going on, the prosecutor was simply unable to keep track of it. Last week, while arguing that the defense was trying to 'politicize' the case, Ken Kohl, the lead prosecutor in the case, referred to [an] ex parte interview of the jury foreman. For Kohl, this was a fatal mistake. Not only Mr. Kohl, but the judge himself was caught breaking the rules." In demanding that Judge Hogan recuse himself, U.S. public defender Bob Tucker told the court that the unmerited partnership of the judge and prosecution against Palmera had, "cast a cloud over the fairness of this [judicial] system."
In his farewell to the court, Hogan said that he was forced to step down because of the intense public interest in the case of Ricardo Palmera.
On the day of the trial, ten protesters demanding Palmera’s freedom were sitting in the courtroom. Solidarity actions against the trial were held all over the globe - including Argentina, Peru, Sweden, Germany, New York and San Francisco.
One of the protesters, Doug Michel of Students for a Democratic Society, explained that he came out to the trial because, "We support the call to free Ricardo Palmera. His trial is unfair and he is grossly mistreated. The U.S. has spent nearly $5 billion on Plan Colombia, and we say no to this U.S. intervention." Between the scandal in Colombia and the protests around the trial, things are only getting worse for the entire spectacle of 'legitimacy' around Plan Colombia.
After the trial, Tom Burke, spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera stated, "The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is already preparing to protest the next trial of Ricardo Palmera. We look forward to professor Palmera putting U.S. aggression and war on trial for a second time. These trials only get more bizarre - solitary confinement, no freedom of the press, no witnesses for the defense, no visits from friends, family or supporters, handpicked government lawyers, the judge and prosecutor caught cheating. If the U.S. runs their dirty war in Colombia the way they run Palmera's trial, it is no wonder they are losing."
This is a great victory for Ricardo Palmera and all of those interested in the wellbeing and sovereignty of the Colombian people. Judge Hogan had already earned himself the nickname of the ‘crazy judge’ after he took out ads in Latin American newspapers demanding that the leadership of the FARC present themselves in his D.C. courtroom.
A new judge is assigned to the Palmera trial, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is preparing another round of protests . The movement to free Ricardo Palmera can only continue to grow.
Judge Hogan Caught Cheating, Forced To Step Down; Another Victory for Ricardo Palmera!
March 29, 2007
Thomas F. Hogan, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court was forced to step
down, to recuse himself, from the trial of Colombian revolutionary Ricardo
Palmera. In the first trial American jurors refused to find Ricardo
Palmera guilty and Judge Hogan was forced to declare a mistrial. Prosecutor
Kohl, frustrated with losing, approached Judge Hogan for permission to
interview the jurors. Neither Judge Hogan or prosecutor Kohl informed the
U.S. public defender Bob Tucker. This ex parte communication is not
allowed. Prosecutor Kohl slipped up at a March 19th pretrial hearing and
mentioned interviewing the jury foreperson following the mistrial. Public
defender Tucker cleverly picked up on Kohl's slip up and turned it back on
Judge Hogan, forcing him to step down.
Tom Burke spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera
(NCFRP) stated "This confirms everything we have been saying. Ricardo
Palmera should be set free. President Bush and the U.S. Government have no
right to put Ricardo Palmera on trial. He has committed no crime. Palmera
is a political prisoner. He is a Colombian revolutionary fighting for
social change--for liberty and equality. The U.S. Government should stop
trying to criminalize a revolution and end the U.S. war in Colombia."
Burke continues "Ricardo Palmera and everyone who stands for peace and
justice in Colombia just won another big victory. Judge Hogan and
prosecutor Kohl were acting like hooligans--colluding to gain a strategic
advantage in the case. Judge Hogan was considering severely limiting the
testimony of Professor Palmera. This is a direct result of prosecutor
Kohl's interview with the jury foreperson. The secret plotting blew up in Judge Hogan's face."
Burke concludes "The NCFRP is already preparing to protest the next trial of
Ricardo Palmera. We hope to hear Professor Palmera putting U.S. aggression
and war on trial for a second time. These trials only get more
bizarre - solitary confinement, no freedom of the press, no witnesses for the
defense, no visits from friends, family, or supporters, handpicked
government lawyers, the judge and prosecutor caught cheating. If the U.S.
runs their dirty war in Colombia the way they run Palmera's trial, it is no
wonder they are losing."
Free Ricardo Palmera! For more information, contact Tom Burke at
773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280 or send the committee an email.
Free Ricardo Palmera, Round Two: International Day of Action!
March 15, 2007
Picket line and press conference to demand Palmera's freedom!
March 26th, 2007 / 8:30 AM picket line
9:00 AM press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave., NW)
Join us around the world at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate on
Ricardo Palmera goes on trial for a second time on March 26th. Palmera,
known in Colombia as Simon Trinidad, is a political prisoner of George
Bush and the U.S. government. Palmera's first trial resulted in a hung
jury and Judge Hogan was forced to declare a mistrial. Even though it
hand-picked the judge, the prosecution, and the defense, the Bush
was not able to convince the jurors of its bogus accusations. Not
satisfied with this outcome, the government is trying Palmera once again
under the same charges.
Palmera, a top-level peace negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia or FARC, was kidnapped on the streets of Quito, Ecuador and
then extradited from Colombia to the U.S. Palmera is being
tried under U.S. domestic law for participating in a revolutionary
movement in his own country of Colombia!
There is nothing fair about these trials. Palmera is not allowed visits
from family, friends, supporters, or his own Colombian lawyer. He is
held in solitary confinement and has no contact with anyone. The U.S.
Government handpicked his lawyer. The media is not allowed to interview
him or the lawyers. It is only Palmera's own testimony that convinced
many jurors that the trial was a joke. Similarly, the ongoing trial of
"Sonia", a woman rebel of the FARC, is another travesty of justice.
In the first Palmera trial, the U.S. prosecutor was allowed to present
as many witnesses as he wanted, including corrupt Colombian Military
officials and paid informers given free passage to the U.S. Judge Hogan
ruled Palmera could not have his two witnesses. One, an official from
the U.N., and the other a professor living in exile in Sweden because
state-sponsored death squads in Colombia prevent her from returning
home. The new trial will be more restricted if the prosecution and judge
have their way.
The fact this trial can take place at all is an affront to Colombian
sovereignty. The trial is an extension of Plan Colombia--the undeclared
U.S. war against the Colombian people. We are protesting the
extradition, imprisonment, and trial of Ricardo Palmera by Bush and the
The victory of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera created
more support and we will have a large protest on March 26th. Our
protests and our presence in the courtroom had a big impact. We are
building a movement for peace and justice in solidarity with Colombia.
We look forward to hearing Ricardo Palmera's eloquent testimony again.
Free Ricardo Palmera!
For more information, contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at
612-715-3280 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Imelda Daza-Cotes recently completed a national speaking tour that included
a stop in Minneapolis. Once a political activist and elected official in
Colombia, Daza-Cotes was targeted by a murderous campaign that wiped out the
Patriotic Union, a leftist political party that rose to prominence in the
1980s. She fled to Sweden where she's been living in exile since 1989. On
Feb. 13, Daza-Cotes addressed an audience of 40 people at Spirit of the
Lakes Church in Minneapolis to discuss her experiences, as well as the
extradition and trial of Colombian rebel Ricardo Palmera and U.S.
intervention in her homeland.
In Colombia, 65 percent of the land is owned by 5 percent of the population,
creating an elite ruling class and a poverty-stricken majority. Due to
pervasive inequalities, the Colombian people have a long history of
resistance to injustice. For decades, Colombian activists have struggled for
social change by organizing trade unions, demanding human rights and
advocating for land reform. Frequently, they suffer violent repression from
the Colombian military and paramilitaries. Discouraged by the lack of
progress, thousands have joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), a 27,000-strong guerilla army formed in 1964.
The U.S. intervenes directly in the Colombian civil war on the side of the
wealthy. Since 2000, the Colombian government has received $4.7 billion from
the U.S. military aid package, "Plan Colombia." U.S. tax dollars fund a
counter-insurgency war against Colombians fighting for social change. Using
violence and intimidation, the Colombian army and their paramilitary allies
make no distinction between those who choose the political process versus
the armed struggle.
In 1984, the Colombian government and the FARC agreed to a cease-fire and
entered negotiations that created the Patriotic Union (UP), a leftist
alternative to the two ruling parties. In exchange for guaranteed amnesty,
thousands of guerilla fighters laid down their arms and joined the UP.
Teachers, unionists, peasants and various professionals also joined the
party. At that time, Daza-Cotes was an economics professor organizing the
peasant community in her hometown, Valledupar. A founding member of the UP,
she was elected as a city council representative.
The UP was recognized as a legal political party, yet the military and
paramilitaries began assassinating its members, murdering 3,000 people. "One
day in 1989, I came home to find a wreath of flowers and an invitation to my
own funeral," said Daza-Cotes. She fled the country, seeking refuge in
Sweden with her husband and three children. Of the 19 founding members of
the UP, only three are still alive: Daza-Cotes, another Colombian woman now
living in Sweden, and current U.S. political prisoner Ricardo Palmera.
"Ricardo was my friend," said Daza-Cotes. "We worked at the same university
and did political organizing together. When I left the country, he joined
the FARC. He didn't see any alternative." Despite the enduring armed
struggle, Daza-Cotes emphasized that the rebels want peace. On Jan. 2, 2004,
Palmera went to Ecuador to make contact with a United Nations representative
about negotiations with the Colombian government. He was captured by the CIA
and extradited to the United States. In November 2006 he was tried in U.S.
federal court for narco-trafficking and kidnapping.
Daza-Cotes said the charges are ridiculous. "He was always against drug
trafficking, and they have no evidence that he was involved." The kidnapping
charges stem from a February 2003 incident in which a helicopter carrying
U.S. private contractors was shot down over FARC-controlled land. The three
American contractors have been held captive ever since. Said Daza-Cotes:
"They invaded territory controlled by an opposing army. They were not
kidnapped. They are prisoners of war."
Palmera is not charged with direct involvement in the "kidnapping." Rather,
under the U.S. "war on terror," he is charged with "conspiracy" to commit
the crime of hostage-taking. Daza-Cotes was contacted in Sweden to testify
for Palmera. "I flew to Washington, D.C.," she said. "The day before the
trial began, they told me I wouldn't be allowed to testify." Dozens of
activists from the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, including
several Minneapolis residents, demonstrated against Palmera's trial. They
picketed outside the courtroom, attended the trial and held press
conferences to publicize a case largely ignored by U.S. media. After
deliberating four days, the jury was unable to convict Palmera due to lack
of evidence. Rather than dismissing the case, the judge decided to re-open
it. Palmera's second trial on the same charges will begin March 26. The U.S.
government hand-picked his lawyer, and the media is not allowed to interview
"If Ricardo is convicted, it implies a victory for the Colombian government
and U.S. interference," said Daza-Cotes. "A just solution requires a
prisoner-exchange and reopened negotiations." She urges U.S. citizens to
stop Plan Colombia. "U.S. tax-payers are financing war against the Colombian
people. Colombians want justice and the right of self-determination."
Fight Back! News has just published an interview with Imelda Daza-Cotes, the noted Colombian professor and politician, who has just finished a successful tour of seven U.S. cities where hundreds heard her speak. Professor Daza-Cotes is a surviving
member of the Patriotic Union, a political party that suffered the
murders of 3000 of its leaders, a crime for which no one has ever
been charged or punished. She toured the U.S. hosted by the National
Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera and supported by local groups like
Students for a Democratic Society, Colombia Solidarity Committees,
Anti-War Committee of Minneapolis and the national Colombia Action
Network. The article in it's entirety can be read here.
No Evidence, U.S. Convicts Colombian Rebel
February 21, 2007
National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera
Sonia, a Colombian revolutionary and political prisoner of the U.S.
government, was found guilty in a U.S. Federal Court today. Sonia's trial
is part of a Bush Administration plan to criminalize Colombian freedom
Sonia, whose full name is Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, is a soldier for the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a woman of high moral
character. A poor peasant who joined the revolution to end poverty and
oppression in Colombia, she is now awaiting sentencing. Her whole life has
been dedicated to changing society, to ending poverty and misery.
There was nothing fair about Sonia's trial and a guilty verdict was nearly
certain from the start. There was no physical evidence presented. Her trial
mainly consisted of the testimony of four U.S. government paid informants
who lied. There were no defense witnesses and Sonia was never called to
defend herself or explain the political situation and U.S. intervention in
Colombia. The jury had little chance of ever understanding the case due to
ignorance about the forty two year old Colombian civil war, the growing
revolution lead by the FARC, and the deepening military intervention of the
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said about
The Bush Administration is conducting a dirty war in Colombia and Sonia's
trial and imprisonment violate the sovereignty of Colombia. The U.S.
government already runs the Colombian Military and their paramilitary death
squads. Now Bush is using the U.S. courts to try to criminalize freedom
fighters, like FARC, who are gaining popularity and strength in Colombia.
Concerning the conviction Burke said,
Sonia's drug conviction is completely phony. How can U.S. spy satellites
take photos of your dog in your back yard, but there are no pictures of the
FARC with drugs? The FARC running drugs is like weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq a big, big lie, so an illegal war can continue. Bush's friend,
Colombian President Uribe, is the one connected to the paramilitary drug
runners and he is close to being taken down for it.
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will be protesting the
upcoming retrial of Ricardo Palmera on March 26th, in Washington D.C.
Contact Tom Burke of the NCFRP at 773-844-3612.
'Sonia' Is Found Guilty By Jury
February 20, 2007
WASHINGTON - A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a Colombian peasant who rose to become the financial chief of a powerful squadron of leftist guerrillas on charges of conspiring to send more than 5 tons of cocaine to the United States.
Nayibe Rojas is the first high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC, in its Spanish initials - whom a U.S. federal court has convicted of drug running, although the U.S. and Colombian governments long have alleged that FARC was deeply involved in every facet of Colombia's cocaine industry.
The jury heard hours of taped phone and other conversations and testimony of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement agents as well as alleged former drug traffickers during the five-week trial. It issued the verdict after deliberating for four days.
The defense painted Rojas, also known as Sonia, as a member of an insurgency that was battling injustices in Colombia, and government witnesses as shady and unreliable characters from Colombia's drug underworld.
Prosecutors cast Rojas as a gun-totting senior FARC logistics chief who gathered coca base from farmers in the coca-rich Caquet region in southern Colombia and sold it to refiners and traffickers, who then sent the cocaine to the United States.
The jury also convicted two co-defendants, Jose Antonio Celis and Juan Diego Giraldo. Celis and Giraldo weren't members of FARC, but the prosecutors argued that all three had conspired to send more than 5 tons of cocaine to the United States.
The three face prison terms of up to 30 years. Sentencing was scheduled for May 7.
The U.S. government suffered an embarrassing setback late last year when another Washington jury failed to reach a verdict on Ricardo Palmera - a senior FARC leader better known as Simon Trinidad - who was accused in the kidnapping of three U.S. defense contractors whom the FARC still holds. His retrial is scheduled for next month.
Rojas' case grew more important after the Palmera hung jury, because Colombian prosecutors often use the threat of extraditions to the United States to entice FARC members to cooperate.
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty called the outcome of the trial "a significant victory against the FARC."
"This case sends a message to major overseas drug-trafficking organizations: We will investigate, prosecute and punish all those who manufacture and distribute illegal drugs for export to the United States," he said in a statement. "There is no international safe haven for illegal narcotics traffickers."
Source: San Jose Mercury News
No Evidence, Paid Informers:
Colombian Rebel Awaits Verdict
February 12, 2007
Washington DC - With no evidence and only the testimony of U.S. government paid informants, Colombian revolutionary "Sonia" awaits a jury’s verdict here in Federal Court. Sonia, whose full name is Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, is a peasant rebel who joined the fight for a free, just and independent Colombia. A nurse with the 30,000 member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Sonia was extradited to the U.S. in violation of Colombia’s sovereignty.
Like political prisoner and FARC leader Ricardo Palmera, whose U.S. trial ended in a hung jury, Sonia's trial is designed by the Bush administration to criminalize the FARC. Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera states, "In Sonia's case, the big lie is that the FARC are narco-traffickers. Photographic or physical evidence linking the FARC to drug running is impossible to find because it does not exist. It is as phony as Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."
In Sonia's trial, the jury only heard testimony from the U.S. government's paid informants and the defense called no witnesses or Sonia herself to testify. The first witness, who the prosecutor called and then described as being involved in kidnapping, drug trafficking, theft and writing bad checks, had no credibility whatsoever. "Rocio Alvarez" is paid $15,000 per month by the U.S. government to testify against Sonia. As described by Washington D.C. lawyer and trial observer Paul Wolf, "Everyone knew she was lying - the judge, the jury, the news media. Above all, the lawyers who put Rocio Alvarez on the witness stand."
Wolf goes on to describe another witness: "The second witness, Mauricio Moreno, was a retired officer of the Colombian National Police who could not remember why he lost his job. Shortly thereafter, he found employment as the bodyguard of Gordo Andres, an alleged drug trafficker, and then as an informant against the FARC. Moreno testified as to his boss's alleged drug transactions with Sonia and to a bizarre plan to sell cocaine to paramilitaries, then steal it back from them and then export it to the United States."
The U.S. government, not shy about stereotyping Colombians, gives the third witness the false name "Juan Valdez." Attorney Wolf reports on "Juan Valdez's" allegations: "He captained the riverboat used by Sonia on a bi-weekly basis, over a two year period, up and down the Caguan river, buying hundreds of tons of cocaine and returning hundreds of millions of dollars to the impoverished economy. Although the Colombian military controlled the river during that time, Valdez and Sonia supposedly ruled the river in their own way, making hundreds of enormous drug deals in a regular pattern, and, apparently, providing a large percentage of the cocaine reaching North American shores. Valdez buried the valuable gringo dollars in various places in the jungle, marking trees with an X and drawing treasure maps." It is a fantastic story.
Wolf also reports, "Then there was Pedro Lopez, a reinserted guerrilla from the 14th front who also claimed that Sonia was financial officer there. And finally, 'Lechuga' - their man in Panama City, Panama, who may just have spotted Sonia in the Seven Seas restaurant. Lechuga was allegedly an old time narcotrafficker, going back 20 years to the Noriega days."
The U.S. prosecutor's approach is to throw as much mud as possible and hope some sticks. Sonia, who took notes and paid close attention during the proceedings, must hope for one or more jurors who understand the poverty and oppression caused by U.S. domination and war in her country. A verdict in Sonia's trial is likely this week.
Colombian Exile Politician to Speak in U.S.
February 2, 2007
In a speaking tour organized by the National Committee to Free
Ricardo Palmera, Professor Daza-Cotes will travel to the U.S. to talk
about fellow professor and political prisoner Ricardo Palmera. She
will speak about U.S. intervention in Colombia and her own journey,
as Colombian military death squads tortured and murdered those around
her, from liberal politics to more radical views. Ms. Daza-Cotes was
forced into exile in Sweden around the same time Ricardo Palmera
decided to join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As
the peaceful path to social justice in Colombia was blocked, the
choices were limited.
Imelda Daza-Cotes was called to testify in Washington D.C. at the
first trial of Ricardo Palmera. Judge Hogan ruled that she and a U.N.
official, the only witnesses for the defense, would not be allowed.
The prosecution was allowed 21 witnesses. The prosecution lost the
case when the jury, believing Ricardo Palmera's testimony, deadlocked
and Judge Hogan declared a mistrial.
President Bush extradited, imprisoned and put on trial both Ricardo
Palmera and Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, known as Sonia. These Colombian
revolutionaries have done nothing wrong; they only served the people
of Colombia and rebelled against a murderous, undemocratic government
backed by the White House. Ricardo Palmera is held in solitary
confinement, allowed no visits from family, friends, supporters or
his Colombian lawyer. No reporters are allowed to interview him or
his lawyers. It is a political trial and Ricardo Palmera is a
The following speaking days are scheduled:
New York City and New Haven, Connecticut - Feb. 9-10
Asheville, North Carolina - Feb. 11
Raleigh, North Carolina - Feb. 12
Minneapolis, Minnesota - Feb. 13-14
San Francisco, California - Feb. 15
Chicago, Illinois - Feb. 16-17
Trial Begins for 'Sonia' - Colombian Revolutionary
January 5, 2007
Washington D.C. - Jury selection for Colombian revolutionary "Sonia" is scheduled to start here on Jan. 8, in front of Federal Court Judge Robertson. Sonia, whose full name is Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, is an important member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC is a 30,000-member guerrilla army that governs nearly 40% of Colombia.
Sonia, a combatant in Colombia’s civil war, was captured Nov. 10, 2004, in the southern mountains of Colombia, near Cartagena de Chaira. Since becoming a prisoner of war, Sonia has been shuffled around from Colombian military bases, to a Colombian navy ship, to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, to prison in the U.S. Sonia is no average prisoner and her case is not a normal criminal trial.
Sonia is being charge with drug crimes under U.S. laws, though she allegedly committed these crimes in Colombia. In a previous prison telephone interview with La Voz newspaper Sonia said:
I am not a narco-trafficker, I am a woman guerrilla fighter of the FARC.
She goes on to say,
They want to extradite me for a crime which I did not commit. I am not a narco-trafficker. The big narco-traffickers are taking a walk in the streets, seated in the Congress of the Republic, and the highest positions of power. My only crime is that I rebelled against the violent, undemocratic and cruel state [of Colombia].
"Sonia", 39 years of age, is the daughter of hard working peasants and of her own free will joined the FARC at the end of the 1980’s. She says at the U.S. embassy they interrogated her, but she refused to answer. The U.S. embassy also offered to bring Sonia and her family to the U.S. and provide for them if she would inform on her friends and comrades in the FARC. She says the U.S. officials threatened "otherwise you will be extradited, locked up in darkroom and will have to spend many years without seeing your family." So now, much like fellow FARC leader Ricardo Palmera, she is imprisoned in the U.S. and her trial begins on Monday, Jan. 8.
Ricardo Palmera won a big victory in his first trial in the U.S. when the jury could not agree on a verdict. Bush’s White House had sought to find Palmera and the FARC guilty of kidnapping U.S. mercenaries in Colombia. Judge Hogan was forced to declare a mistrial for Palmera and then Sonia’s case was transferred from Hogan’s courtroom to Robertson’s. Judge Hogan and the U.S. prosecutors are going to take a second crack at FARC peace negotiator Ricardo Palmera on March 26.
Tom Burke, spokesperson for the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, "Just like the extradition and trial of Ricardo Palmera, Sonia’s trial is completely out of bounds. The U.S. has no right to put Colombian revolutionaries on trial in the U.S. It is another form of intervention in the undeclared U.S. war in Colombia. The Bush White House is losing their war in Colombia. Plan Colombia is a total failure. Sonia’s trial reflects the desperation of U.S. foreign policy."
Second Trial of Palmera Scheduled - Outrageous Violation of National Sovereignty and Human Rights Continues
NCFRP Press Release
December 14, 2006
Ricardo Palmera, known in Colombia as Simon Trinidad, is going on trial for
a second time on March 26th, 2007. The first trial resulted in a hung jury
and Judge Hogan was forced to declare a mistrial. The U.S. prosecutors
asked for a second trial after failing to win the first time.
Palmera, a top-level negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia or FARC, was kidnapped on the streets of Quito, Ecuador and then
extradited from Colombia to the U.S. For participating in a revolutionary
movement in his own country, Palmera is being tried for violations of U.S.
domestic criminal laws.
In Judge Hogan's courtroom today, the government defense team complained
the March 26th start date would not leave enough time to prepare for
another trial Palmera faces on separate charges.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said:
Palmera beat the U.S. government the first time, so now President Bush's
judge and prosecutor want a second chance. The White House is losing its
undeclared war in Colombia and these trials are an act of desperation.
Ricardo Palmera should not be on trial in the U.S. at all.
Concerning the new trial dates Burke said,
We think our protests outside
the court and our presence at the first trial had a big impact. Our
victory in the first trial has created a lot more support and we will have
a much larger protest in March. We are building a movement for peace and
justice in solidarity with Colombia. Freedom for Ricardo Palmera is at the
center of that.
For more information, contact Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at
Send Holiday Greetings to Ricardo Palmera
December, 12 2006
by Mick Kelly
Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera will spend the upcoming holiday season in a jail outside Washington D.C. The FARC leader will have no visitors. He is forbidden to see or talk with friends and family. The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is urging everyone who is concerned about justice to send Palmera a holiday greeting card.
“It is important that people of goodwill break through the government-imposed isolation,” says Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. “Every message that Palmera receives is an act of protest. The government says Ricardo Palmera is a terrorist. In fact, he has devoted his entire life to fighting for the liberation of the Colombian people. He deserves support.”
Recently, the government prosecution of Palmera was handed a big setback when a Washington D.C. jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. The prosecution has announced it will go for a second trial. “Palmera and the movement to free him won the first round. We step up our work and win round two,” says Burke.
To send a holiday card or greeting to Palmera, use the following address:
Ricardo Palmera, c/o
Federal Public Defender for D.C.
625 Indiana Ave Suite 550
Washington DC 20004
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (NCFRP) is pleased to
announce that the U.S. government has suffered a major setback in its latest
attempt to trample over the sovereignty of Colombia. Earlier today, the
jurors in the trial of Ricardo Palmera sent Judge Hogan a third note stating
they would never reach agreement over the "terrorism" charges brought
against the defendant. An embarrassed Judge Hogan was forced to declare a
mistrial, bringing to a close the first round in one of the most bizarre
legal cases ever. This is a great victory for Palmera, and it sends a strong
message to the Colombian people that ordinary North Americans refuse to
support U.S. government intervention in Colombia's sovereign affairs.
Palmera who told the court he joined the FARC, "to fight for social,
political and economic changes in my country and to reach peace", is still
being held in solitary confinement.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, "This
victory is brilliant! This is a big win for Ricardo Palmera! What a great
moment for Colombia and the American solidarity movement with the people of
Colombia! The United States government lost on their home court, playing by
their rules, which they bent to ensure a guilty verdict. Some of the jurors
refused to be manipulated and used. They understood that the Bush
Administration was putting the FARC on trial. This was a political trial
concerning an undeclared U.S. war in Colombia. The jury sent a clear
political message to President Bush: Free Ricardo Palmera!"
The NCFRP congratulates Ricardo Palmera, the Colombian people, and defenders
of justice everywhere. Activists and supporters from eleven cities and six
universities organized a picket line on the first and last days of the
trial. We believe the picket had a noticeable effect on the trial - several
jurors reportedly witnessed the demonstration and everyone saw supporters
for Ricardo Palmera in the courtroom.
Continuing, Tom Burke said, "The National Committee thinks our protests
outside the Washington D.C. Federal Courts had a big effect on the jury.
Prosecutor Kohl and Judge Hogan were so angry they could not stop denouncing
our protests to the jury. This only caused some of the jurors to dig in
their heels. The jurors would not be budged from saying "not guilty".
The NCFRP believes that we must be prepared for the next round in the fight
to free Palmera. Having lost this time, the prosecution is preparing for
the next round. We must mobilize in defense of Ricardo Palmera with bigger
demonstrations and greater efforts to secure his release. We demand the
release of peace negotiator Ricardo Palmera, and other FARC members in U.S.
custody. It would be a clear sign that the U.S. seeks a peaceful resolution
to the war in Colombia. The Colombian people and the whole world are
watching to see if President Bush and the U.S. government and Colombian
President Uribe really desire peace, or if they will continue this sham
court process and their futile war against the Colombian people and the
Ricardo Palmera Wins First Round, Trial Ends with Hung Jury, Mistrial Declared
November 22, 2006
Washington D.C. - Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera is smiling
tonight. Today in U.S. Federal Court, Palmera and progressive people
everywhere scored a big victory as the jury sent its third note saying it
could not agree. Dour-faced Judge Hogan was forced to declare a mistrial. As
many in the U.S. celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, none will be happier
than Ricardo Palmera and his supporters in the National Committee to Free
Ricardo Palmera. People throughout Colombia will be slapping each other on
the back and toasting the jurors who took a stand against the sheer
injustice of this trial.
The trial of Ricardo Palmera is one of the most bizarre cases ever. Palmera
is a negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC.
The FARC controls 40% of Colombia and has 27,000 armed fighters. The trial
of Palmera is an attempt by the Bush administration to criminalize a
national liberation movement. Some jurors understood this.
Amazingly, the U.S. prosecutor wanted to put the whole of the FARC on trial
along with Palmera. U.S. Judge Hogan issued an order demanding the FARC
appear in court. This approach was quietly dropped, in favor of a new U.S.
government indictment against 50 FARC leaders. Those FARC leaders have not
responded, as they are spread throughout Colombia carrying forward a
EL JUEZ DECLARO EL JUICIO NULO Y VICIADO - ES UNA VICTORIA PARA RICARDO PALMERA
November 22, 2006
El Comité Nacional para la Libertad de Ricardo Palmera (CNPLRP), se
complace en anunciarles que el gobierno de Estados Unidos (EE.UU.), ha
sufrido una importante derrota, es un revés importante en las tentativas de
pisotear la soberanía de Colombia. Hoy bien temprano en las horas de la
manana, los miembros del jurado en el juicio contra Ricardo Palmeras, le
enviaron al Juez Hogan una tercera nota en la que le informan que nunca
podrían alcanzar a ponerse de acuerdo en los cargos de " terrorismo" en
contra del demandado Ricardo Palmera. Esta decisión del jurado forzó al Juez
Hogan a declarar el juicio "nulo y viciado". Cerrando así, el primer
capítulo de uno de los más extranos casos legales que alguna vez halla
existido. Esto es una victoria para Ricardo Palmera, y a su vez, le envía un fuerte
mensaje a la gente colombiana que los estadounidenses comunes y corrientes
rechazan la intervención del gobierno de EE.UU. en los asuntos soberanos de
Colombia. Palmera le dijo a la Corte por que ingreso a las FARC-EP . Esto lo
hizo, según sus propias palabras para "luchar por cambios sociales,
económicos, políticos y alcanzar la paz en Colombia". A pesar de esta
victoria aún Palmera es mantenido en prisión y en un confinamiento
Tom Burke, del CNPLRP dijó: Esta es una victoria brillante. Es un gran
triunfo para Ricardo Palmera. Además, es un gran momento para la gente de
Colombia, y en particular para el movimiento norteamericano de solidaridad
con el pueblo de Colombia. El gobierno de EE.UU., perdió en su propia casa y
jugando con sus propias reglas, que le garantizaban un veredicto de
culpable. Algunos de los miembros del jurado rechazaron ser manipulados
a servir a los propósitos de la administración de Bush. Ellos entendieron
que lo que la administración de Bush hacia era poner a las FARC-EP en
juicio. Este juicio no es otra cosa que uno de los referentes políticos de
la guerra no declarada de los Estados Unidos en Colombia. El jurado le envió
un mensaje claro al Presidente Bush para que ponga en libertad a Ricardo
El CNPLRP felicita a Ricardo Palmera y a la gente de Colombia, y a los
defensores de la justicia en todas partes. A los activistas y partidarios de
esta lucha en once ciudades y seis universidades que organizaron los
piquetes desde el primer dia hasta en los últimos días del juicio. Creemos
que los piquetes tuvieron un notorio efecto en el juicio - varios de los
jurados presenciaron los piquetes y cada uno de ellos vio la presencia
masiva de los activistas y partidarios de la la lucha por libertad de
Ricardo Palmera en el salón de la corte.
A continuación, Tom Burke dijó, "El Comité Nacional piensa que nuestras
protestas fuera de la Corte Federal del Distrito de Columbia en Washington
DC, tuvieron un efecto grande en los jurados. El Fiscal Kohl y el Juez Hogan
estuvieron enojados y no paraban de denunciar nuestras protestas al jurado. Sin embargo, esto causó que algunos miembros
del jurados se pararan firmes y dijeran que Ricardo Palmera " no es
El CNPLRP cree que debemos de estar preparados para el próximo capítulo en
esta lucha por la libertad de Palmera. Sabemos que los fiscales perdieron y
que van a estar más preparados para revertir la decisión favorable a Ricardo
Palmera. Tenemos que movilizarnos en defensa de Palmera y hacer
demostraciones más grandes y hacer mayores esfuerzos para obtener su
Además, de exigir la libertad inmediata del negociar de la paz Ricardo
Palmera. También, demandamos la de Sonia, quien actualmente está bajo
custodia encarcelada por el gobierno de EE.UU. Esto sería un claro signo de
que los EE.UU. están buscando una solución pacífica a la guerra en Colombia.
El pueblo colombiano y la gente a través del mundo estan pendientes de que
tanto el presidente de los EE.UU. George Bush como el presidente de Colombia
Alvaro Uribe Velez, tengan realmente un deseo de paz, o si quieran continuar
con este proceso vergonzoso de una guerra inútil contra la gente de Colombia
y contra las FARC.
Mistrial Declared in Palmera Case!
November 21, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday declared a mistrial in
the case against a Colombian rebel leader who was charged with
hostage-taking and giving material support to a terrorist group.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas Hogan declared the mistrial
after jurors, who had been deliberating since Thursday, said they
could not agree on a verdict in the case against Ricardo Palmera.
The U.S. attorney's office said it planned to retry the case and had
asked the court for a new trial date.
"The U.S. government has asked the court to schedule a retrial on the
terrorism charges as soon as possible," said Justice Department
spokesman Bryan Sierra.
Palmera, also known as Simon Trinidad, is the most senior leader of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to go on trial in the
The U.S. government has designated the group, known as FARC, as a
foreign terrorist organization. The rebels have been fighting for
socialist revolution since 1964 and have at times run large swathes of
Palmera denied the charges. He testified that he had never seen the
three American defense contractors he was accused of helping hold
hostage and said he joined FARC "to fight for social, political and
economic changes in my country and to reach peace."
Palmera was extradited to the United States from Colombia at the end
of 2004. He earlier had been arrested in neighboring Ecuador. A former
banker born into Colombian high society, Palmera was radicalized by a
murder campaign against leftists in the 1980s.
The U.S. Justice Department says Palmera still faces drug trafficking
charges for which a separate trial will be held.
Palmera is one of two rebel leaders whom the FARC want to be included
in any prisoner exchange with the Colombian government. He was one of
FARC's top negotiators during failed peace negotiations with the
government of former President Andres Pastrana, a friend from his youth.
...Now set him free!
Final Day of Testimony for Kidnapped Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera in Washington DC
November 11, 2006
Picket line and press conference to demand Palmera's freedom!
November 13th / 8:30 AM picket line
9:00 AM press conference
Federal Court Building (333 Constitution Ave., NW)
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera will hold a picket line and
press conference to protest Palmera's trial, on the final day of Palmera's
cross-examination, November 13th. The Committee believes the Bush
administration has no legal or moral right to prosecute Palmera.
Palmera, a top-level negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia or FARC, was kidnapped on the streets of Quito, Ecuador and then
extradited from Colombia to the U.S. The FARC are Colombian rebels and
Latin America's oldest and most powerful left-wing insurgent movement. The
FARC has broad support from Colombia's peasants and workers and controls
close to half the countryside. There are many supporters around the world.
Ricardo Palmera has been held in a U.S. prison for almost two years now.
Palmera is not allowed private meetings with his own lawyer, who was hand-
picked by the U.S. government; he has been denied all freedom of speech;
the media is not allowed to interview him; he is not allowed to be present
at his own trials in Colombia; he can have no visitors; he can communicate
with no one.
Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera states,
"Palmera is a good man who has done nothing wrong. Ricardo Palmera is
Colombia's "Robin Hood". Palmera testified in court last week, the first
and only time he has been allowed to speak in public. He testified that he
traveled a path from political party reformer to FARC revolutionary.
Palmera and many of his compatriots began as anti-corruption, anti-drug
liberal reformers. He testified about personally experiencing political
repression, torture by the Colombian Military, and watching prominent
political leaders being assassinated by death squads sponsored by the
Colombian government. Palmera joined the FARC realizing it is the only
possible alternative for a New Colombia."
Burke continues: "Palmera's trial violates the sovereignty of the Colombian
people. It is part of the U.S. government's undeclared war in Colombia-Plan
Colombia. The Bush administration has 800 U.S. troops patrolling with the
Colombian Army and 500 U.S. mercenary contractors flying and spying.
Fighters in the 27,000 member FARC shot down a spy plane with three
American mercenaries and is detaining them. This is the pretext U.S.
prosecutors use to charge Palmera with 'kidnapping.'"
As Palmera's trial nears its end, the FARC is asking Hollywood celebrities
Denzel Washington, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, leftist U.S. academics
Noam Chomsky, James Petras and Angela Davis, and former Presidential
candidate Jesse Jackson to pressure the Bush administration to support a
prisoner exchange. Ricardo Palmera deserves to be returned to his freedom
For Further Information from the National Committee for Free Ricardo
Tom Burke at 773-844-3612 or Mick Kelly at 612-715-3280
Protest The Railroading of Palmera on December 4
November 4, 2006
The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is protesting the U.S. government’s kidnapping, imprisonment and railroading of Ricardo Palmera. We demand the release of Ricardo Palmera now!
Ricardo Palmera is a good and honest man who has committed no crime. He is a fine example of a revolutionary fighting for the liberation of the Colombian people from poverty and oppression. Ricardo Palmera is only guilty of rebelling against an unjust system! Born into a family of wealth and power, Ricardo Palmera turned to a life of serving the poor and the oppressed, taking up the life of the guerrilla fighters of the FARC. He has been a FARC peace negotiator in talks with the Colombian government. Ricardo Palmera has dedicated his life to the struggle of the Colombian people for independence, peace and justice. George Bush, Judge Hogan and the United States government have no right to judge Ricardo Palmera.
Palmera’s trial is another form of U.S. interference in Colombia. The Bush administration is pursuing an undeclared war in Colombia. Under 'Plan Colombia', begun by Clinton and Gore, the U.S. government spends nearly $5 billion on chemical warfare and paramilitary death squads that kill trade unionists, peasants, students - anyone who organizes the people to oppose the U.S. empire and the rich elite of Colombia. There are now 800 U.S. troops 'advising' soldiers in battle. 500 U.S. mercenaries or 'military contractors' are participating in the Colombian civil war on the side of the corrupt puppet government. Plan Colombia is a plan for misery, poverty and death. We demand an end to Plan Colombia! We demand an end to the trial of Palmera!
We are calling on all those who support peace, justice and fairness to picket and protest this outrageous trial. We want to pack the courtroom with supporters of Ricardo Palmera so Judge Hogan, 'el Juez Loco', learns he cannot railroad a brave Colombian fighter. It is time to unite. All who oppose U.S. war and occupation, all who seek to end the misery of U.S. war and intervention in Latin America, all who support self-determination and sovereignty for the people of Colombia: Please join our protest and picket.
Protest the Trial of Ricardo Palmera 8:30 a.m., Monday, December 4, 2006 U.S. District Court, Washington D.C.,
Third Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest