“I can’t even write to the judges” – Ricardo Palmera/Simón Trinidad, Colombian Prisoner of War in US Supermax Prison

by Hernán Camacho, for the Colombian newspaper, Voz (La Verdad del Pueblo)

translated by James Patrick Jordan

Simon-TrinidadIt was December, 2004 when President Álvaro Uribe authorized the extradition of the man born in the Valle del Cacique de Upar, capital of the Department of Cesar, cradle of Vallenato music, who was known in that city as Ricardo Palmera Pineda, Professor of Economics, banker and politician. From a traditional family, of ample means, well-connected to Colombia’s Caribbean political class, he was used to listening to the sounds of accordions in parties that would last until dawn. This was the life of Palmera before joining the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army).

Simón Trinidad [the name Palmera adopted as a member of the FARC-EP] was chosen as an envoy and negotiator of this guerrilla army in the peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba because of his profound knowledge of the regional and national economy, his political capacity and boldness, in addition to his experience as a negotiator in the Caguán peace process [1999 – 2002]. Today Simón Trinidad passes his hours in the federal prison of Florence, Colorado (Unite States), with only one hour of sunlight per day, and only one authorized visitor, his brother, Alix Pineda de Palmera. He is a political prisoner held in unjust captivity.

Strong character

VOZ obtained an exclusive recording in which Simón Trinidad denounced the flagrant violation of his rights as a Colombian in foreign territory, but above all, as a human being. The words of Trinidad were taken this past March, 11th [2013], and are the fruit of one of only four “confidential” meetings with his Colombian legal defender. He made an urgent call to the [Colombian] government’s delegation of negotiators that they intercede on behalf of his immediate repatriation [so that he may] apply himself to the tasks of being a negotiator and envoy.

VOS transcribes the words of [Trinidad] one of the three [Colombian] insurgents extradited to the “Country to the North”:

I want you to hear me in Havana. This is a denunciation before the national and international press concerning what is being done to me. I have 14 judgments and they do not let me speak, they do not let me send documents, I cannot talk with anyone, they do not let me write a letter. I have no guarantee to the right of a defense and the government delegation in Havana should know that.”

None of his claims have been heard, his lawyers in the U.S. have preferred to distance themselves from his defense and to be the least diligent possible for fear of being accused as collaborators with international terrorism.


I asked to speak with the International Committee of the Red Cross four years ago and they have not even permitted me this. I want you to know this—I told this to my lawyer in Colombia, Ramiro Orjuela, with whom I have only been able to speak four times in nine years of incarceration during the 126 legal processes in Colombia”, Trinidad eagerly reiterated, because the prison guards seek to interfere in the communication he does sustain.

Communication with the outside world has not been easy for Trinidad since he is denied reading, writing and visits. In fact, as opposed to his mother, only [ex-Colombian Senator and founder of Colombians for Peace] Piedad Córdoba has been able to visit during his extradition and for only three quarters of an hour, with a restricted vigilance.

To denounce the violations against his person and his dignity from within the maximum security jail is an admirable deed.

In Trinidad’s opportunity of confidentiality with his lawyer, he [the lawyer] asked him what is the most complicated part for him in exercising his defense, and without hesitation he responded: “That I have no defense, Ramiro—in practice I have no defense. To speak with you 10 or 15 minutes is not sufficient, and they do not permit me to send documents nor to write the judges, where I might be able to prove my innocence.” At this moment of the conversation, in an abrupt manner the communication was terminated, having lasted one minute and thirty seconds. “It’s been two years that I have not even been able to see him via teleconference. It is vile”, points out Orjuela.

Without due process

In 24 of the 126 legal processes, judges and attorneys of the Republic of Colombia have judged in favor of Simón Trinidad, demonstrating the absence of responsibility in the accusations he has against him—reasons difficult to explain by the Colombian authorities. In words of his defense, the absence of criteria makes it so that whatever armed action of the guerrillas occurs, they ascribe [responsibility] to him, suggesting that he is part of the FARC-EP Secretariat, “and this is certainly not so”.

VOZ knows of two unique manuscripts that he undoubtedly authored, and that show the substantive judicial inconsistencies applied to the processes against him. At the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, letters to the Attorney General of the time, Vivian Morales, are plain proof of the violation of due process.

That instance in making her listen, at least it yielded the result that a year later, the Ministry of Justice sent a petition to the Gringo Bureau of Prisons and solicited, with the accustomed submissiveness, that they might permit him to attend programmed video conferences without chains that locked his hands to his waist. “It caused permanent anguish to see him that way, since with a distracted movement on his part, he would receive electric shocks. Now at least I can see his hands”, said Orjuela in a state of indignation it was impossible to hide.

The country and the peace do not need this. The FARC-EP’s peace delegation in Havana makes daily calls for his [Trinidad’s] presence. This is no complete negotiation without the opinions of Simón Trinidad. “With him, he holds the country in his head’, reiterates Orjuela to VOZ.

The man who almost never sees the sun continues raising his voice against the injustice of his confinement. The times of the banker and the insurgent must not pass unnoticed in the political history of the country, neither in the hopes for peace for a new Colombia. A person whose testimony of life is capable of tempting the literary pen of Gabo [Gabriel García Márquez] is a Colombian with a conviction for peace tested by fire.

For more background on Ricardo Palmera’s/Simón Trinidad’s case as well as the extraditions of Colombians that interfere with the country’s peace process, click here.

Send an email to Pres. Obama and the State Department demanding US support for the Colombian peace process, including the end of the extraditions and the participation of Ricardo Palmera/Simón Trinidad in negotiations.

Ricardo Palmera/Simón Trinidad is one of the more than 80,000 prisoners in the US subjected to solitary confinement.  Click here to learn more about prisoner hunger strikers in California who are demanding an end to this inhumane practice–a practice which clearly constitutes torture.