FARC political leader Simon Trinidad

The Colombian FARC rebel group's declaration that they want a political ideologue, currently serving a 60-year prison term in the US, to act as one of their main negotiators may be just the first obstacle in what will likely be a rough road in laying the groundwork for peace talks.

A group of spokespeople for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, Cuba, named three of the five negotiators they hope to send to Norway in October to engage in peace talks with the Colombian government to end that country's nearly 50-year old civil conflict. These nominees include a former member of the Caribbean Bloc, currently in jail in the United States: Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simon Trinidad.”

Trinidad was an ideologue who stood out among the FARC ranks because he came from the upper middle class rather than the peasantry. Before he joined the rebels at age 36, in 1987, Trinidad worked as a university professor, then a banker.

As a guerrilla leader, Trinidad rose through the ranks quickly, in part because of his business acumen. This included using information he'd gained as a banker to target members of wealthy families for kidnappings.

In one sense, his nomination to the delegation is not a surprise. During the 1998-2002 peace talks, Trinidad acted as the FARC’s pointman on economic issues and land reform.

But following those talks, Trinidad was injured and traveled to Ecuador where he was arrested in 2004. At the time, he was the most high-level FARC commander ever captured during Colombia’s 40-year war against the rebels.

He was later extradited to the US and convicted of participating in the kidnapping of three US Pentagon contractors in 2003. In 2008, he was sentenced to 60 years in a high-security prison in Colorado. He would have likely received a life sentence, but that is banned under the terms of the extradition agreement between Colombia and the US.

One of Trinidad’s defense lawyers has said that, in legal terms, it is “impossible” for Trinidad to participate in Colombia’s peace talks. President Juan Manuel Santos said he has not yet discussed the issue of Trinidad’s release with the US, adding, “The process needs to be realistic...Some things will be possible and others won’t.”

InSight Crime Analysis

At first glance, the FARC’s request to have Trinidad on the negotiating team may seem like a deliberate effort to stonewall the process before it has even begun. But their request may not be so unreasonable and appears to be an indirect way of establishing the ground rules of what will be one of the central issues of this process: extradition.

There are clear indications the US would like to get their hands on other guerrilla leaders to prosecute them. In 2006, the Southern District of New York issued a lengthy indictment on drug trafficking charges of more than 50 FARC leaders, some of whom were part of the Secretariat. Just two years later, the Colombian presidency extradited to the United States 14 top level right-wing paramilitary leaders -- all of whom had been indicted separately on drug trafficking charges -- who were negotiating a peace deal with the government.

So the issue for the FARC is trust. They do not want to enter a negotiation only to find themselves on an airplane to the United States and facing down 60 years in prison. Putting Trinidad's name on the table means Colombian and US authorities will have to make a decision on how to treat the FARC leaders: as political actors or as criminals.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.