Washington, D.C. - A U.S. judge placed ads in Colombia’s newspapers the last week of August “ordering” the FARC - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to appear in his Washington D.C. courtroom. This adds to a list of bizarre procedures involving the extradition, imprisonment and trial of Ricardo Palmera, an important FARC leader. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ridiculously asserts that the FARC members should leave their homeland and come to the U.S. to appear on charges of, “taking hostages in violation of U.S. laws.”
Ricardo Palmera was extradited from Colombia and imprisoned on the same charges. Legal experts in Colombia and around the world consider the U.S. government’s extradition of Palmera a violation of Colombia’s sovereignty and a kidnapping.
The FARC, with over 27,000 armed fighters, is Latin America’s largest and strongest leftist insurgency. For 40 years the FARC has fought the Colombian state in a civil war. With broad support amongst the people, the FARC is the de facto government in as much as 40% of Colombia. The FARC fights a Vietnam-style people’s war against the corrupt narco-government of President Alvaro Uribe. President Uribe, previously connected to a drug trafficking cartel by U.S. intelligence, now oversees the U.S. government’s ‘war on drugs’ in Colombia. President Uribe signed the papers to send Ricardo Palmera to the U.S. on drug and kidnapping charges.
The FARC holds three U.S. mercenary contractors: Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell. The U.S. government claims their detention is a kidnapping. A statement from the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera clarifies the matter: “It is absurd that the U.S. government has extradited Mr. Palmera on the basis of hostage taking and providing material support to terrorists. The specifics of the charge concern U.S.-contracted mercenaries who were shot down in their plane over FARC territory. A firefight ensued in which a U.S. mercenary and a Colombian sergeant were killed, while three U.S. mercenaries were captured. The U.S. Justice Department is trying to claim that this small battle in Colombia’s civil war amounts to hostage taking, and that the long-running guerrilla war is now a ‘terrorist action!’ This makes a mockery of international law, as Bush attempts to impose U.S. sovereignty in Colombia.”
As the United States military becomes more involved in the war in Colombia, the potential for these cases will increase. Plan Colombia spends over $4 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for massive chemical spraying of poor peasants’ crops and for tripling the size of the Colombian military. Despite analysis that Plan Colombia is a failure, Bush and Congress increased military spending to Colombia in 2005 and upped U.S. military ‘advisors’ to 800, plus 600 mercenary contractors. As U.S. military ‘advisors’ go out into battle alongside the government’s troops, the likelihood of more captured or dead advisors and mercenary contractors seems certain.
Palmera’s next status conference in front of U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is Oct. 4.