A senior US State department official has said that he is not aware of any initiative to release a formerly extradited foreign official for the FARC, according to French news agency AFP.
Deputy assistant secretary for Latin America John D. Feeley’s statement came in response to a question from Republican senator Marco Rubio on whether any request has been made for the temporary or possibly permanent release of FARC foreign official Simon Trinidad.
“The Colombians have not asked us for [his] liberation,” said Feeley.
Rubio, a presidential candidate for the Republican party, reiterated what Feeley suggested. Said Rubio, “Until now there has been no request by the Colombian government to release Mr. Trinidad, and we would promptly oppose it if at any time it is made.”
One of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos claimed in March that the government had asked for the repatriation of Trinidad, a claim almost immediately denied by Santos.
Without the participation of rebel leader Simon Trinidad, currently incarcerated in the United States, the FARC will not agree to any comprehensive peace accord, the guerrilla group announced last week.
Simon Trinidad is currently serving a 60-year sentence in the United States after being convicted of involvement in the kidnapping of three American military contractors in Colombia.
Previous requests that have been made by the FARC to President Barack Obama’s administration for the repatriation of Trinidad have not been granted.
The FARC desire Trinidad’s endorsement of any peace deal before they will countersign it, as indicated in a video sent to journalist Jorge Enrique Botero by Jesus Santrich, a negotiator for the rebels in Havana, Cuba.
“Because of the qualities Simon Trinidad has, because of his sensitivity to our reality of inequality, misery and lack of democracy that has plunged our people into an unending conflict, and for his experiences in Caguan, Simon Trinidad has to be in Havana.” declared Santrich.
Trinidad, an economist educated at Harvard University in the US, does bring a certain pedigree to the rebel organization.
His political acumen helped increase the reach of the FARC as well as secure them a demilitarized zone during the negotiations between the guerrilla group and the government between 1998 and 2002.
Having proved himself a capable negotiator, the FARC surely desire his presence in the current talks to help secure a more favorable outcome for the rebels.
Trinidad was captured in Ecuador in 2004 and deported to Colombia where he faced charges of kidnapping, extortion, and rebellion.
He was extradited to the US in 2007 to face further charges of drug trafficking, terrorism, and hostage-taking, but was only ever convicted of kidnapping.
US and Colombian authorities appear to be firm in their rejection of Trinidad as a negotiator, with President Juan Manuel Santos suggesting that the FARC need to be “realistic”.
The rebel organization’s stated intransigence on this issue could be a dangerous impediment to progress in the peace talks, threatening the signing of a formal accord by all parties.