Colombian politician Piedad Cordoba denied visa by the United States
Colombian politician Piedad Cordoba denied visa by the United States

TODAY COLOMBIA – The United States has denied a visa renewal application from prominent Colombian politician Piedad Cordoba, she said Tuesday.

The former senator told Caracol Radio she tried to renew her US visa in order to attend meetings in Washington DC of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States.

Cordoba, 61, has long been a defender of minority rights and a major supporter of peace negotiations between the government and leftist FARC guerrillas.

In 2010, Colombia’s Inspector General removed her from the senate and banned her from public office for 18 years over accusations she had ties to the FARC, a designated guerrilla group. These accusations were never proven in court.

Cordoba told Caracol she wanted to use her trip to the Commission on Human Rights to, among other things, pursue her challenge to Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s action.

She has long championed reforms to benefit ethnic and political minorities, and women.

Another issue she has been pursuing is an effort to improve US prison conditions for Simon Trinidad, a FARC leader serving a 60-year solitary confinement sentence in a maximum security prison in Colorado. The FARC has long sought his release from prison so he could participate in ongoing peace talks with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos.

Cordoba said she was told her visa renewal application was denied because it did not include a formal written invitation from the Commission on Human Rights to attend Washington meetings.

A spokeswoman for the Commission said Tuesday she did not have enough information to comment on Cordoba’s situation. An attempt to reach Cordoba was unsuccessful.

US visa policy has come under criticism recently from both the political right and left. From the right, critics say there is not enough scrutiny of visa applicants to ensure no terrorists are given entry. From the left, critics say that activists are sometimes denied visas because of false allegations of ties to terrorist groups.

In 2010, the US denied a visa to Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, who needed it in order to accept a year-long Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. Morris was also a strong critic of a US-backed military offensive targeting guerrillas.

US officials said at the time his visa was denied because of his alleged involvement with terrorist groups, but later revoked the decision to deny the visa.

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