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 Tuesday.
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 contracters 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 another favorable outcome for the rebels.
He 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.