US group protests Colombian rebel trial.

On Friday, December 31st the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez handed over rebel leader Ricardo Palmera to the FBI for extradition to the United States. This unprecedented act marks the first time that a leading member of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces-Peoples Army--the FARC-EP--has been extradited to the U.S. for prosecution.

Despite a total news whiteout in this country, the nation of Colombia is one of the most beleaguered in the region. Colombia is the most dangerous place on the planet for labor unionists as well as journalists.

One out of three union activists killed in the world today are in Colombia. Over three million people have been displaced due to a bloody civil war that has ravaged the country for over 40 years. Most of the three million are children, peasants and Afro-Colombians.

The December extradition of the rebel leader is a blow to Colombia's sovereignty. It is an example that the onus of the problems the Colombian people face is placed on those who heroically resist repression and imperialist domination, despite overwhelming obstacles.

Palmera, who is better known by his Simón Bolívar inspired pseudonym "Simón Trinidad" had been detained, or better said, kidnapped in Quito, Ecuador on January 2, 2004. His assignment according to FARC statements was to find a suitable place for a meeting with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and other international personalities to work out a solution for the return of FARC's prisoners of war through a humanitarian prisoners exchange.

He was extradited to Colombia where he remained in maximum security prison and faced 100 legal cases with charges of terrorism, kidnapping, drug trafficking and rebellion. The transfer to a Bogotá jail was done with U.S. Black Hawk helicopters.

In Washington DC Trinidad was charged with kidnapping, terrorism and drug trafficking. Over and over, the FARC has denied drug trafficking charges. At the same time, over 35 U.S. banks have been proven to launder drug money and have received a mere slap in the wrist. The kidnapping charge stems from a Feb. 2003 incident when the FARC shot at a small plane flown by U.S. contractors over territory controlled by the rebels.

"The acute situation in Colombia demands the immediate solidarity of peace and social justice activists everywhere," stated Teresa Gutierrez, IAC Co-Director.

"As long as the U.S. government is allowed to carry out its bloody military and economic plans in Colombia which are best laid out in the Andean Initiative (better known as the $3billion Plan Colombia), the Colombian people will never win the peace they desperately need. This extradition will only exacerbate an already dangerous situation for Colombians."

"The U.S. government has no business extraditing anyone," stated LeiLani Dowell a FIST organizer.

"The Bush administration kidnapped Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide which opened up an onslaught against the people. The U.S. needs to get out of Latin America and the Caribbean altogether."

Dowell traveled to Haiti last August in a fact-finding delegation. The complicity of Colombian President Uribe with the U.S. indicates that his administration is completely in the hands of U.S. imperialism.

Berta Joubert Ceci, Philadelphia IAC Co-Director stated, "the extradition of Trinidad to the U.S. has been negatively seen by many in Colombia, including relatives of captives by the FARC. They are afraid that Uribe, as he has done in the past, will try a military, violent solution to the hostage situation where they could be hurt, instead of a negotiated solution."

Joubert, Gutierrez and Dowell have visited Colombia several times as part of fact-finding delegations.

Countless interviews with Colombian unionists, activists, women, peasants, youth groups and others point to the fact that the real problem in Colombia is a repressive government that does the bidding of the U.S., death squads allowed to run rampant who are responsible for over 80% of assassinations in the country; and U.S. corporations such as Coca-Cola that dictate policies benefiting corporate domination at the sake of the Colombian people.

[Source: ANNCOL, Stockholm, 08Feb06]

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