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.