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COLOMBIA: US Court Gives FARC Negotiator 60 Years

Fascinating story from “World War 4 Report.” This is a long article, so I am only including two excerpts here. For the full text of the article, double-click on the article title below.

The first excerpt focuses on the bizarre and convoluted path that led to Simon Trinidad’s conviction and sentencing (even the USAID is involved) and the second excerpt is a summary of his hour long statement in court and I guess his version of “History Will Absolve Me.”


FARC negotiator gets Colombia’s max —in US prison

Submitted by WW4 Report on Mon, 01/28/2008 – 23:21.

“Simón Trinidad , the FARC’s well-known prisoner-exchange negotiator, was today sentenced to 60 years in prison in Federal District Court in Washington, DC. Several months ago, Trinidad was found guilty of conspiracy to take three military contractors as hostages, a crime occurring back in 2003. The sentence was determined in a separate proceeding held today.

The 60 year penalty, the maximum allowable under Colombian law, is a relatively new invention. In 2004, under a program funded and administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Colombia reformed its penal code (Law 890, which modified Article 31) to increase the maximum allowable penalty from 40 to 60 years. As one of the first beneficiaries of the legal reform, it seems fitting that the punishment would be calculated in Washington. Even more so because this penalty didn‚t even exist in Colombia back in 2003 when the crime was committed.

The penalty was calculated according to the US federal sentencing guidelines. Factors used to calculate the sentence included whether a demand was made for the release of the hostages, whether a weapon was used, the length of time the hostages were held, whether Trinidad accepted responsibility for the crime, and the relative importance of his role in it. Another factor—and a big one—was whether taking the three contractors prisoner was an act of “terrorism”—i.e., a violent crime intended to intimidate a government and extract a concession from it.

The defense argued that Trinidad’s “agreement”—a conspiracy is essentially an agreement to commit a crime—was limited to taking a letter from FARC commander Raul Reyes to Ecuador, to present to James LeMoyne, a UN official who had brokered the FARC’s negotiations with the government of President Andres Pastrana. Trinidad didn’t have the mens rea, or guilty mental state, had never made any demand for the hostages’ release, had no say in whether they ever would be released, and has never even seen the hostages.

Nevertheless, the judge found against Trinidad for every sentencing factor, indicating the maximum penalty available for this crime, which under US law would be life imprisonment. However, the judge noted that he would respect the wishes of the Colombian government, which asked for the sentence to be limited to 60 years, in accordance with the new law. Judge Lamberth acquiesced and sentenced Trinidad to 60 years without parole.”

http://ww4report.com/node/4997

“Simon Trinidad’s Statement at his Sentencing Hearing for Hostage Taking

After thanking the judge for his help with medical and other problems he’d had at the DC Jail, and for permitting the meeting with Piedad Cordoba, and thanking the US Marshalls and others working at the court for the respect with which he’s been treated, Simón Trinidad began his statement by saying that he was speaking today as a member of the FARC, an insurgent group that had taken up arms against the Colombian government.

From the moment of its inception, the FARC had struggled to change an oligarchical system that had maintained itself over the years through blood and fire. Beginning on July 20, 1964, the FARC had sought peaceful democratic change through the masses, but the oligarquia had used paid assassins—pajaros, chulavitas, and now paramilitaries—to terrorize the population with the power of the bullet. Nelson Mandela, who founded a guerrilla movement in South Africa and later rose to become president of that country, said it is the oppressor who always dictates the terms of the struggle, not the oppressed. In Colombia, the oppressor is the oligarchy and the use of force against the people is what led to the formation of the FARC.

The FARC, he said, are a part of the Colombian people who express their dissent in various ways to the violent and elitist regime. Founded by campesinos like Manuel Marulanda, the FARC’s efforts have centered on agrarian issues and the protection of campesinos. Created by campesinos and workers, the FARC fights for the improvement of wages, unionization, and has a political strategy against the oppressors.

Citing Ciro Trujillo and Hernando Gomez Acosta, Trinidad said the FARC
respects indigenous and womens’ organizations, and believes in a pluralistic and democratic Colombia. Latin America, he continued, is a region of great economic disparity and is third in the world in social disparity. The FARC supports the basic human rights that everyone needs to lead a dignified life, including access to nutrition, education, potable water, electricity, dignified living conditions, recreation and rest. Some 54% of Colombians, he said, or 24 million people, live below the poverty line, living on just $1-2 dollars a day.

A variety of fertile lands and climates would permit the harvesting of crops in Colombia 12 months of the year, providing enough for all Colombians as well as a surplus for export. Colombia is also rich, he said, in mineral resources, including gold, nickel, coal, salt and oil. Colombia’s biodiversity, in flora and fauna, the fish in its rivers, and a wealth in human resources make Colombia a very rich country able to provide for all of its inhabitants.

Nevertheless, a small group of people, the petty governing class, has monopolized these resources, taken the best lands, controlled the economy, and kept the rest of Colombia in poverty. Leaders of both Liberal and Conservative parties have legalized these monopolies for the benefit of the rich, and by the same token, handed over Colombia’s resources to foreign capitalists for their own enrichment.

The oligarchy’s policy of violence utilizes murder, torture and disappearances as tools against their opponents to keep themselves in power. Examples range from the genocide of the Gaitanista movement in the 1940s to the extermination of the Union Patriotica in the late 1980s. The three branches of power in the government have granted themselves impunity for all of their crimes, as well as those of the military and paramilitaries.

The unjust character of the government, where immorality and cynicism have been the norm, and its corruption are shown through the management of the people’s money paid as taxes, and the mismanagement of state-run industries. The government has abused its power by selling the nation’s resources to foreigners. It’s true that in Colombia, those who govern are elected every four years, but democracy isn’t just voting, and 65% of Colombians typically abstain from voting anyway. Large numbers of votes are bought. Voters are promised a job. Dead people vote. Others vote more than once. The electoral process in Colombia is illegitimate and a farce.

In the last 14 years, the presidency of Colombia has been manipulated by drug traffickers. The Cali cartel contributed $6.5 million dollars to the campaign of Ernesto Samper. Andres Pastrana was furious when he didn‚t receive the support of this cartel, and it took him four more years to become President. An August 2, 2002 report of the US Defense Intelligence Agency describing Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel lists both
Fidel Castaño and Alvaro Uribe as members. After his election, Uribe gave public contracts and political offices to his friends in an effort to reform the constitution so he could be re-elected a second time automatically. This is the best picture that can be drawn of Colombian democracy. It is a paper democracy, but what is described in the papers is far from the truth.

Colombia has been at war for more than 60 years, with a growing participation of the USA. Today the war against the insurgents 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 oligarchy and sustains the conditions that cause the Colombian conflict, but provides no solutions. Simon Bolivar said that “the destiny of the US was to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”

The US government, and some members of the US Congress have misunderstood the Colombian conflict as being centered around drugs. Although in Colombia there are no serious ethnic, religious, or separatist divisions, the conflict has deep social and historical roots that have nothing to do with drug trafficking. The FARC do not share the Colombian government’s belief in a military solution to the conflict. This conflict is harmful to the dignity of the Colombian people. Instead, the FARC advocates social investment and the participation of communities in the planning of agriculture and crop substitution. The military strategy should be changed. The US and Colombian governments should work together to confront the challenges that face humanity. No country has the exclusive power to lead the fight in this area. The international community must have a greater participation, particularly countries where drugs are
consumed.

Simon Trinidad said he was quite surprised when the Department of Justice introduced clumsily altered videos, made by the Colombian military, to try to prove that he was a member of the Secretariado of the FARC. He said he was sorry he never saw the letter sent by the US authorities to the Colombian government, because he was sure that a serious complaint must have been made about this mockery of justice. If the Colombian army can shamelessly lie to the people who provide them with so much money, just
imagine what they are doing in Colombia.

Trinidad said his trial was political. The political nature of his trial proves the political nature of the FARC. Politics, he said, is an expression of economics, and war was the expresion of politics by other means. His trial was political from beginning to end. At least, he said, his trial allowed him the opportunity to explain the FARC’s revolutionary philosophy and the position of its Secretariado on various issues, and he is satisfied that despite great efforts, the jury could not find him guilty of supporting a terrorist organization, because the United States had erroneously classified the FARC as a terrorist organization.

Trinidad said that because he and his organization, the FARC, had been labelled a terrorist organization, he wanted to take the opportunity to condemn all terrorism, regardless of the source. Don’t forget, he said, that the terrorist faction of the state was what brought him to become a member of the FARC to combat it. Based on his own principles and ideological conviction, he could not condone terrorism. Like the FARC, he felt that any force that wants to rise to power cannot engage in terrorism.

By the same token, though, he rejects the extradition of Colombians to be tried in other countries. This is a neo-colonial practice that undermines the sovereignty of the country. It is used as a weapon to blackmail men and women fighting for a just cause, including Sonia and himself.

In Colombia there is a war, with prisoners taken on both sides. This is a very real problem that demands a solution. The political order that came from Trinidad’s superiors was a first step to carry out a humanitarian action meant to benefit prisoners on both sides. “My conscience absolves me. I join the ranks of those that history can and has absolved.”

Trinidad said he was also satisfied with the letter he wrote to Manuel Marulanda requesting proof of life of the three Americans, and still he does not want to be an obstacle for the exchange of prisoners. He is convinced that this will be an important factor in achieving peace with social justice in Colombia. The first point on the FARC’s political platform is to find a political solution to the conflict.

Trinidad said it was his sincerest wish that the three Americans are returned safe and sound to the bosoms of their loved ones. He had already met with officials from the State Department, and would be willing to have further meetings to continue the dialog. He said that when he joined the FARC, he knew he could lose his life and liberty fighting for justice and peace in his country.

Finally, Trinidad thanked the Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera and quoted the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti: “What Bolivar didn’t do remains undone today.” Trinidad concluded his statement with the following words, which he spoke in the same tone of voice as the rest:

Long live Manuel Marulanda
Long live the FARC
Long live Simon Bolivar, whose sword of freedom continues to run through America.

After hearing all this, Judge Lamberth looked Trinidad in the eyes, said he respected Trinidad’s intelligence, sincerity, and eloquence, and then proceeded to sentence him to 60 years, the longest sentence ever imposed on a Colombian. Trinidad had gone over the line, explained the judge, when he joined this conspiracy. His crime was terrorism, a heinous and barbaric crime that violated the law of nations. No civilized nation will tolerate terrorism, he concluded, and this was a court of law. The maximum sentence allowed for hostage taking was life imprisonment, said the judge, but he would abide by the wishes of the Colombian government and only impose a term of 60 years. “Good luck to you, Mr. Palmera Piñeda.”

Paul Wolf on the scene in Washington DC”

http://ww4report.com/node/4997

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February 2, 2008 Posted by | Colombia, Ecuador, Imperialism, Latin America, US, USAID | , , , | Leave a comment

UN “Peacekeepers” Accused of Human Rights Violations in Haiti

http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4905

Excerpt from article:

“Another violent military operation occurred in July 2005, when an estimated 22,000 bullet holes were found after an operation by MINUSTAH in Cite Soleil. Reports by HIP cited accounts by residents that the wounded and dead were found inside their own homes. These accounts charge that soldiers shot at people indiscriminately, which had devastating effects in a neighborhood where housing conditions are extremely precarious.”

My Comment: The author, Maria Luisa Mendonca, is a human rights representative from Brazil which is especially important because the UN mission in Haiti is led by Brazil. Further, in the July 2005 attack described above, between 300-400 UN soldiers participated and included numerous armored personnel carriers and helicopters. The July 6 attack was indeed a massacre. If interested in reading more about this attack, please see an article I wrote about it entitled, “July 6, 2005: Haiti, The Gaza Strip of the Caribbean.”

Americas Program Commentary

UN Troops Accused of Human Rights Violations in Haiti

Maria Luisa Mendonça | January 21, 2008

Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

americas.irc-online.org

The UN Security Council decided in October 2007 to extend the mandate of the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) through Oct. 15, 2008. The Brazilian Government is responsible for coordinating the MINUSTAH forces that include approximately 9,000 troops. Yet there is very little discussion in Brazil about the country’s role in the occupation of Haiti, and especially, about the accusations leveled against the UN troops for their participation in human rights violations.

One of the cases documented by Haitian human rights organizations was that of the massacre that took place on Dec. 22, 2006 in the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, following a protest by some 10,000 people who demanded the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the withdrawal of foreign military forces. According to reports by local residents and video footage recorded by the Haiti Information Project, the UN forces attacked the community and killed about 30 people, including women and children.

In response to the criticism by human rights organizations that denounced those killings, MINUSTAH justified its actions by claiming that it was combating gangs in Cite Soleil. However, the images shot by Haiti Information Project show that UN troops shot unarmed civilians from helicopters. Inter Press Service, which covered the conditions in the area immediately following the attack, reported finding high-caliber bullet holes in many homes. HIP director Kevin Pina accused MINUSTAH of participating together with the Haitian National Police in summary executions and arbitrary arrests. He concluded, “In this context, it is hard to continue seeing the UN mission as an independent and neutral force in the country.”

Camille Chalmers, a Haiti University professor and member of the Haitian Platform for Social Movement Integration, explained in an interview with journalist Claudia Korol of the Adital Agency: “MINUSTAH tried to build legitimacy by saying that it is fighting criminals. But many people realize that the only things that can truly reduce the lack of safety are public policies and social services. Unfortunately, what we have is a violent military apparatus.”

Another violent military operation occurred in July 2005, when an estimated 22,000 bullet holes were found after an operation by MINUSTAH in Cite Soleil. Reports by HIP cited accounts by residents that the wounded and dead were found inside their own homes. These accounts charge that soldiers shot at people indiscriminately, which had devastating effects in a neighborhood where housing conditions are extremely precarious.

These accounts also charged that MINUSTAH did not allow the Red Cross to enter the area—a violation of the Geneva Convention. U.S. Government confidential documents, obtained by human rights organizations through the Freedom of Information Act, show that the American Embassy knew that the UN troops planned an attack on Cite Soleil. Local community organizations believe that the goal of the military was to prevent a demonstration commemorating ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s birthday, which was on July 15.

A report by Project Censored estimates that more than 1,000 members of Lavalas, a loose organization that groups supporters of Aristide, were arrested and about 8,000 people killed during the “interim government” that ran the country from 2004 to 2006, following the coup against Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.

Camille Chalmers characterizes this action as an “intervention led by the governments of the United States and France.” He further explains that “solidarity with the people of Haiti means helping to rebuild the country and find answers to the most pressing social problems, and the military presence does not help. The goals of security and human rights have not been met. On the contrary, we believe that the presence of MINUSTAH constitutes a violation of the Haitian people’s right to self determination.”

On Feb. 2, 2007 UN troops conducted another operation in Cite Soleil that resulted in the deaths of two young women who were sleeping in their homes. On Feb. 7, various demonstrations took place in the country, and on Feb. 9 there was another military attack, which was denounced by local organizations such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

On Oct. 30, 2007, the kidnapping of Dr. Maryse Narcisse, who is a member of the national leadership of Lavalas and worked with health and education social programs in Haiti, was made public. Another member of Lavalas, the psychologist and human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, disappeared on Aug. 12. Local organizations accuse the UN troops of generating public instability and attacking those who defend democracy and human rights.

The Brazilian Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, OAB) led an observation mission to Haiti in late June 2007 and concluded that MINUSTAH plays a “violent” and “repressive” role that cannot be characterized as a “humanitarian action.” Anderson Bussinger Carvalho, the lawyer responsible for the report, called for the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti. “I have concluded that the presence of Brazilian troops is not humanitarian. It is a strictly military mission. Haiti has a history of military occupations and Brazil ends up playing a role in this history,” said Carvalho in an interview with the newspaper A Folha de São Paulo (Sept. 4, 2007).

The role played by Latin American countries in Haiti today is similar to the one played by the multilateral forces that stayed in the Dominican Republic following the invasion by the United States in 1965. The Dominican Republic suffered under a long military dictatorship that lasted until 1961 when longtime dictator Rafael Trujillo died.

In 1962 Juan Bosch was elected president but was deposed by a military coup after seven months in power. In April 1965, a series of widespread demonstrations demanded the return of ex-president Juan Bosch. It was during that time that U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered a military invasion of the Dominican Republic by 20,000 marines. A few weeks after the invasion, the Organization of American States sent in the Inter-American Peace Force of 1,129 soldiers. During that period, while Brazil was under a military dictatorship, the role of Brazilian troops in the Dominican Republic was similar to the one they play in Haiti today.

According to the North American writer Norman Solomon, writing in his book War Made Easy: “In retrospect, the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic foreshadowed a series of U.S. military actions in the Western hemisphere and beyond. Covert intervention by the CIA in Latin America was as constant as the seasons, the overwhelming arrival of so many U.S. troops in the small country was a kind of political and media prototype for a pair of lightning strike invasions in the 1980s—Grenada and Panama—as well as, in more complicated ways, the relatively limited military interventions in Haiti during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In each case, the man living in the White House found ways to set the media agenda for public approval to affirm the kind of desire expressed by Lyndon Johnson to Assistant Secretary of State Mann: ‘We’re going to have to really set up that government down there and run it and stabilize it some way or other.'”

The experience of Brazilian troops in Haiti was described by soldier Tailon Ruppenthal in his book A Brazilian Soldier in Haiti (Globo Publishing). He was 20 years old in 2004 when he took part in the UN mission for six months. “Even today, more than two years since I got back to Brazil and left the Army, I can’t forget what I saw there. Once when I was on foot patrol, I saw something far away that looked like a pig that that had been completely burnt. As I got closer, I started to shake and almost lost control before a horrifying sight: it wasn’t a pig, but a child around three years old,” recounts Ruppenthal in his book.

“A soldier must have courage above all. But the collective depression starts to spread, and after a few months even getting out of bed is hard. You remember that you will cross paths with all those people who are starving but there’s nothing you can do,” writes Ruppental.

In another part of the book Ruppenthal describes what happened during a visit from then UN Secretary Koffi Annan: “The shooting was petrifying. There were bullets flying everywhere. You couldn’t tell from where in the slum the bullets were coming and so the soldiers started to shoot blindly, setting off the biggest barrage of bullets that I experienced in the peace mission. The whole situation was out of control, and within one or two minutes bullets were flying from every direction.”

When Ruppenthal returned to Brazil his behavior changed. “I was very aggressive and started to drink a lot. My mom noticed how much I had changed, and we found a doctor who diagnosed post-traumatic syndrome. I would need to receive psychological help. We approached the Army, but they refused to help me, claiming that they examined me upon my return and found nothing wrong with me.” And he sums up, “And I just would like to remind everyone that we are losing the real war: against poverty … Only the fight against poverty will bring peace. When will they see that?”

Unfortunately, Ruppenthal’s opinion and the many criticisms of the negative role the UN troops play in Haiti are not taken into account by the Brazilian government. The Brazilian government’s policy in relation to Haiti serves to legitimize a coup d’etat and strengthen U.S. interests in the region.

Maria Luisa Mendonça is a journalist and coordinates the Network on Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil.

January 22, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Canada, France, Haiti, Imperialism, NED, United Nations, US, USAID | , , | Leave a comment

VENEZUELA SOLIDARITY NETWORK Demands Records of US Payments to Argentine Groups and Politicians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For Information Contact

January 12, 2008 Chuck Kaufman

202-544-9355

vsn@AFGJ.org

VSN Demands Records of US Payments to Argentine Groups and Politicians

The independent US Venezuela Solidarity Network (VSN) on Friday January 11, 2008 filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demands to US government agencies for “all records” of “all grants, payments and/or funds transfers to individuals, groups or political parties in Argentina from January 1, 2006 to date.”

FOIA requests were submitted to the US Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Included in the request to the NED was the demand for records from its core groups, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Private Enterprise.

VSN’s Interim National Coordinator Chuck Kaufman explained, “When the US government arrested several people in Miami and attacked the Venezuelan government for allegedly sending nearly $800,000 to Argentina for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s campaign, we were struck not only by the flimsy evidence, but by the sheer level of hypocrisy involved. We decided to make public how much money the US government spent on the presidential election in Argentina and who received it.”

In 2006 Kaufman led delegations to Nicaragua and Venezuela to investigate US involvement in those countries’ presidential elections that year. In Nicaragua US ambassador Paul Trivelli admitted that he had $12 million to spend on the election and an IRI official bragged that “we started” a supposedly independent group that opposed Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega’s candidacy. In Venezuela an embassy official confirmed press reports that USAID was spending $23 million and the NED another $3 million for groups opposed to President Hugo Chavez’ candidacy.

“The Bush Administration is extremely worried about the growing rejection of US political and economic hegemony in Latin America,” Kaufman said. “They were surely up to their eyeballs in the Argentine election. Argentina, after all, was the first country in Latin America to kick out the International Monetary Fund which enforces US economic policy,” he noted.

So-called “democracy building” programs are an ever larger portion of foreign aid money administered by USAID. In Venezuela the funds pass though a US embassy office named the Office of Transition Initiatives. Purported to be non-partisan, US democracy building grants go preponderantly to groups and individuals aligned with US government and corporate policies.

“They are democracy manipulating programs pure and simple,” Kaufman said. “One of NED’s founders, Alan Weinstein, was quoted at the time as saying, ‘We do now overtly what the CIA did covertly 25 years ago.’”

The Venezuela Solidarity Network filed the FOIAs in an effort to educate US taxpayers about the fact that their money is being spent to manipulate other countries’ elections. It would be illegal if those countries spent money to influence elections in the US. “US citizens believe in free and fair elections and they would be outraged if they knew our government was trying to rig elections in other countries,” Kaufman said.

The FOIA’s were filed on behalf of the Venezuela Solidarity Network by the public interest law firm, Partnership for Civil Justice. The Partnership for Civil Justice just last week won a lawsuit against New York City for refusing to permit an anti-war demonstration in Central Park during the 2004 Republican convention.

The VSN is a network of US local and national organizations formed to expose and oppose US government intervention in Venezuela and to support Venezuela’s Bolivarian process to reduce poverty and increase economic justice in that country. Its web page is www.vensolidarity.org.

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January 14, 2008 Posted by | Argentina, CIA, Coups, Imperialism, NED, US, USAID, Venezuela | Leave a comment