[News] FBI commits domestic terrorism on Independence Movement in Puerto Rico

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 13 08:58:38 EST 2006


FBI commits domestic terrorism on Independence Movement in Puerto Rico

“The only domestic terrorist attack here is the 
U.S. government’s attack on the people of Puerto Rico.”
                                                                         New 
York State Assemblyman José  Rivera.1

             In a move reminiscent of a U.S. 
Marine invasion of a foreign country, the FBI 
descended in droves on Puerto Rico on February 
10.2  Without breathing a word of the invasion to 
either the colonial governor or the chief of 
police, heavily armed, militarized units of the 
FBI, including the Special Weapons and Tactics 
Unit from Miami, hit six different spots 
throughout the island.  Their purpose, they 
claimed, was to execute search warrants on six 
independence activists they identified as 
suspected leaders of the clandestine independence 
organization, Ejercito Popular 
Boricua/Macheteros,3 the same organization whose 
legendary leader, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, who the 
FBI assassinated five months earlier.  Their true 
purpose was widely understood as other: with 
their show of force, to continue their long 
campaign to intimidate and criminalize those who 
support independence for Puerto Rico, 
particularly in this moment of the resurgence of 
the left throughout Latin America; and, of 
course, to detract from their own criminal 
conduct in taking Ojeda’s life.  “This is yet 
another move on the part of the FBI to control 
and warn those who advocate for the independence 
of Puerto Rico, exercising their constitutional 
rights. It appears they are sending a message of 
intimidation,”4 said independentist activist and 
attorney Roxana Badillo, who added that they are 
sorely mistaken if they believe the movement will be intimidated.
             Landing in military-style 
helicopters, accompanied by caravans of vehicles, 
sometimes with the license plates obscured, FBI 
agents swarmed private residences and businesses 
in Trujillo Alto and Río Piedras (in the San Juan 
metropolitan area), and Mayagüez, San Germán, 
Aguadilla, and Isabela (in the west of the 
island), terrorizing entire neighborhoods.  The 
search warrants bore the names and addresses of 
veteran labor leaders, community leaders, known 
independentists, and even a Protestant minister 
respected for his work promoting small projects 
of self-empowerment for poor people.5
             In Río Piedras, as Homeland Security 
helicopters hovered above and sharpshooters 
watched through their telescopes from neighboring 
buildings, FBI agents were ransacking the 
apartment of independentist Liliana Laboy.  The 
Puerto Rican media arrived to cover the 
remarkable event. With the FBI’s murder of Ojeda 
Ríos fresh on their minds, independence 
supporters quickly gathered at the closed gates 
of the condominium, shouting, 
“Asesinos!”6  Meanwhile, the FBI had banished 
Laboy from her apartment, and initially ignored 
requests from her attorneys to allow them access 
to their client, grabbing and threatening to 
arrest the attorneys if they didn’t leave the premises.
             In San Germán, agents assaulted the 
offices of the not-for-profit Ecumenical 
Committee for Community Economic Development 
[CEDECO, its Spanish acronym], where community 
activist and independentist William Mohler García 
was at work.  They not only removed Mohler from 
his office, but they handcuffed him and left him 
to bake in the hot sun­ this, after searching his 
home, pepper spraying his dog, and subjecting his 
wife to much humiliation.  Supporters gathered at 
the scene, shouting at the agents: “Get out of 
here, damned FBI,” and “FBI, cowards, assassins, 
terrorists!”7  In Aguadilla, the FBI searched the 
home of another CEDECO director, Presbyterian 
minister and independentist José Morales. Also in 
Aguadilla, the FBI spent four hours searching the 
home of independentist and elementary school 
teacher VilmaVélez Roldán, while she was at 
school.  Agents threw her two sons out of their 
home, handcuffed them, and left them outside with 
no shade.8   In Isabela, the Cabán family home 
was searched.9  In Trujillo Alto, the home of 
Norberto Cintrón Fiallo was ransacked while he was away at his workplace.
             Before leaving the scene in Río 
Piedras, the FBI, obviously unhappy with the 
presence of protesters and abundant numbers of 
media and the prospect of having to face further 
public exposure, aggressing against all those 
gathered, including attacking the media with 
pepper spray.  Several journalists were treated 
by paramedics at the scene, and some went to 
nearby hospitals.  As the caravan of some 
fourteen vehicles sped from the scene, the agents 
had their assault weapons pointed at the press 
and public.  Adding insult to injury, the FBI 
emitted a press release stating, “It appears 
members of the media and the general public 
attempted to cross the established law 
enforcement perimeter, and the use of non-lethal 
force was utilized. This was done in order to 
protect members of the media, the public and the 
law enforcement officers executing this lawful search warrant.”
Reaction from the Press
             “It gives us pause that in a 
democratic society, security forces cut off the 
flow of information, and even worse, attack those 
who work in journalism, who seek to divulge 
precise and reliable information,” said Annette 
Alvarez, a television reporter who was sprayed, 
who spoke in her capacity as president of the 
Overseas Press Club chapter.10  Oscar J. Serrano, 
president of the Journalists Association of 
Puerto Rico, declared, “The agents didn’t use 
force and gas to defend themselves; they used 
them offensively to attack the press.  The act of 
an agent emptying his spray can directly in the 
face of [journalist] Normando Valentín, who had 
his hands occupied with the instruments of his 
trade, cannot be excused as negligence.  That, 
and the expression of disdain reflected on the 
agent’s face, are indicative of a specific intent 
to cause harm, and represents nothing less than a 
criminal act.”11  The Association of 
Photojournalists, the Center for the Freedom of 
the Press, the Organization of Independent 
Journalists, and the Union of Journalists, 
Graphic Arts and Ramas Anexas  joined in 
condemning the FBI’s use of force on their colleagues.
             While the Puerto Rican print, 
electronic media and radio provided full coverage 
of this extraordinary militaristic operation, the 
U.S. press was virtually silent,12 with only a 
few newspapers reprinting slightly differing 
versions of an Associated Press wire story.
Reaction from the Puerto Rican Government
             After the September assassination, 
the FBI lost all hope of credibility in the eyes 
of  Puerto Rican society.  Having been told on 
February 10 only after the FBI had begun its 
assault, and only that they were serving search 
warrants on suspected Macheteros, the chief of 
police, Pedro Toledo (himself a former FBI 
agent), as well as the head of the Department of 
Justice were quick to distance themselves from 
the operation, making public statements that they 
were not participants.13  When Toledo 
learned­after the operation was over­ that the 
FBI asserted that this “ongoing domestic 
terrorism investigation” averted “a potential 
attack, where explosives devices were to be 
utilized,” to be “directed at privately owned 
interests in Puerto Rico, as well as the general 
public,”14 he insisted that, “[w]ithout a doubt, 
I should have been informed.”15  Toledo rather 
resoundingly criticized the entire operation­ not 
just the use of force against the journalists­ as 
having used excessive force, listing the use of 
so many agents and the incorporation of 
helicopters.  He recalled his own participation 
in the 1980's in executing search warrants 
against members of the same clandestine 
organization, when such incidents never took 
place.  “It was an improper use, completely 
outside of the norm.  This gas (pepper) is used 
when your life is in danger, against an attacker, 
not a journalist,” he said.16 However, although 
he expressed that the Puerto Rican Department of 
Justice would have jurisdiction to prosecute 
federal agents for their excessive use of force, 
he did not express any intention to conduct such 
a prosecution, or even investigate these FBI crimes on Puerto Rican soil.
             The governor was another recipient 
of such a “courtesy call,”17 which also took 
place only after the FBI had begun its 
assault.18  He, too, expressed indignation at the 
assault on Puerto Rican journalists, calling it 
unjustified.19  However he offered absolutely no 
criticism of the FBI’s invasion of his country, 
let alone of the agency’s failure to even notify 
him in advance, and failed to insist that the 
U.S. government be accountable for the acts of 
its agents committed in Puerto Rico.
Reaction from the Public
             The very same afternoon the FBI 
conducted its show of force, hundreds of people 
gathered at the federal courthouse, which houses 
the FBI offices, to express their 
indignation.  Called by the Worker’s Socialist 
Movement [MST by its Spanish acronym],20 people 
of all ages and walks of life marched and 
chanted, as elected officials, spokespeople from 
a variety of organizations, and those whose homes had been ransacked, spoke.
             The following day, fifteen 
organizations convened a press conference to 
condemn the FBI’s aggressive presence. A 
spokesperson for CEDECO’s support network 
expressed concern that the highly publicized raid 
could cost the organization the financial support 
it receives from grants and foundations and 
thereby undermine its ability to offer services 
of education and of rehabilitating homes for 
people with few resources.  Agency spokespeople 
questioned why the FBI would take important 
documents related to one of CEDECO’s urban housing projects.21
              Julio Fontanet, president of the 
Puerto Rican Bar Association, expressed a common 
theme:  “To complain to the federal government or 
the goverment of Puerto Rico is an exercise in 
futility, and the FBI acts with total impunity in 
Puerto Rico.”22  Observing that this type of FBI 
operation in Puerto Rico has become a custom, 
Fontanet announced his intention to take the 
matter to international fora.23  The former dean 
of the Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law, law 
professor Carlos Rivera Lugo, echoed Fontanet, 
censuring the Puerto Rican government “for 
permitting the U.S. armed forces to act with 
total impunity in this country.”24  The National 
Hostosiano Independence Movement coincided:  “The 
governor of Puerto Rico has the obligation to 
stand up and defend Puerto Rico.  We demand that 
governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá energetically 
condemn the FBI’s abusive actions in Puerto Rico, 
and that as a representative of the people he 
express the general indignation we all feel, and 
that he demand respect for our people.”25  The 
experience moved that organization to commit to 
redouble its efforts to “expel forever from our 
national territory the federal court and the 
FBI,” because “the only thing the presence in 
Puerto Rico of these federal dependencies has 
caused is injury, damage, and impediments to our 
right as a people to self-determination.”26
             Amnesty International of Puerto Rico 
expressed its concern for the FBI’s conduct both 
in executing the search warrants and attacking 
the press, reminding the FBI that they are not 
above the law of civil and human rights, and 
that, like any other law enforcement agency, they 
must comply with basic human rights provided by international law.27
             Representatives of all the political 
parties have, however timidly, expressed 
preoccupation with the FBI’s conduct toward the 
independence movement, but it was the 
independence party representative who expressed 
the sentiment strongly felt throughout the 
diverse independence movement: “This operation is 
the most crude proof that Puerto Rico is a 
colony,” noted Juan Dalmau, secretary general of 
the Puerto Rican Independence Party.28  “If the 
FBI thinks that with these acts it is going to 
intimidate the independentists, it is 
mistaken.  In the face of these abuses, the 
independence movement will respond just as it has 
historically, with more militancy, more 
patriotism and a greater commitment to 
struggle.”29  That will be necessary, given the 
rumors that the FBI will return to conduct more 
search and destroy missions,30 and to increase the wave of repression.

Jan Susler
February 12, 2006
All translations from Spanish to English are the author’s.


Websites where photos and videos are available:

<http://pr.indymedia.org/news/2006/02/13197.php>http://pr.indymedia.org/news/2006/02/13197.php
http://www.primerahora.com/noticia.asp?guid=F9260F8D7C3A47B682B0BA4AAE99B5D2
http://www.primerahora.com/noticia.asp?guid=4822DBB409014D1C8C77C89458E01C5A&newscat=panorama&newssubcat=policia


1Jesús Dávila, “Los allanamientos encienden la 
chispa en todo borinquen,” El Diario/La Prensa, February 12, 2006.
2For most Puerto Ricans, it was also reminiscent 
of August 30, 1985, when, in another island wide 
invasion, the FBI arrested a multitude of 
independence activists and accused them of 
participating in a conspiracy involving $7.6 
taken from a Wells Fargo depot, an action for 
which the Ejercito Popular Boricua/Macheteros claimed responsibility.
3Boricua Popular Army/Sugarcane Cutters.
4Associated Press, “Abogada independentista acusa 
a federales de intimidación,” El Nuevo Día, February 10, 2006.
5Jesús Dávila, “Ofensiva FBI contra 
independentistas,” El Diario/La Prensa, February 11, 2006.
6Id.
7Jackeline Del Toro Cordero, “Operativo federal 
buscaba documentos,” El Vocero, February 11, 2006.
8Comunicado de Prensa, Movimiento Independentista 
Nacional Hostosiano de Aguadilla, 
<http://www.redbetances.com,>www.redbetances.com, February 12, 2006.
9Carmen Edith Torres, “Irrumpe el FBI en seis 
puntos del País,” El Nuevo Día, February 11, 2006.
10Associated Press, “OPC censura agresión contra 
la prensa,” El Nuevo Día, February 10, 2006.
11Mabel M. Figueroa, “Condena al vicioso ataque a 
reporteros: Una sola voz de repudio al FBI,” Primera Hora, February 11, 2006.
12With the notable exception of El Diario/La Prensa.
13See, e.g., Maritza Díaz Alcaide, “Callaron lo 
del ‘ataque terrorista’,” Primera Hora, February 
11, 2006; Yanira Hernández Cabiya, “Informada la 
Policía tras iniciar el operativo,” El Nuevo Día, 
February 10, 2006; José R. Ortúzar, “El Súper se 
lava las manos,” El Vocero, February 11, 
2006.  The chief of police of Mayagüez, whose 
police were roundly criticized by the public for 
having cooperated with the FBI during its 
assassination of Ojeda Ríos, and who was also not 
informed by the FBI about their operation, was 
also quick to distance himself from this 
assault.  Associated Press, “Jefe de la Policía 
Mayagüez confirma operativo,” El Nuevo Día, February 10, 2006.
14FBI Press Release, February 10, 2006.
15Maritza Díaz Alcaide, “Callaron lo del ‘ataque 
terrorista’,” Primera Hora, February 11, 2006.
16Daniel Rivera Vargas, “Con poder Justicia para 
acusar,” El Nuevo Día, February 12, 2006.
17Yanira Hernández Cabiya, “Informada la Policía 
tras iniciar el operativo,” El Nuevo Día, February 10, 2006.
18Maritza Díaz Alcaide, “Callaron lo del ‘ataque 
terrorista’,” Primera Hora, February 11, 2006.
19Id.
20EFE, “Convocan a manifestación contra FBI,” El Nuevo Día, February 10, 2006.
21Melisa Ortega Marrero, EFE, “CEDECO niega 
vínculos con el independentismo puertorriqueño,” 
Primera Hora, February 11, 2006.
22Associated Press, “Varias voces expresan 
rechazo a operativo del FBI y su trato a 
periodistas,” Primera Hora, February 12, 2006.
23EFE, “Denunciarán ante organismos 
internacionales actos del FBI,” Primera Hora,  February 11, 2006.
24Jackeline Del Toro Cordero, “Académico critica 
el operativo,” El Vocero, February 11, 2006.
25“MINH [Movimiento Independentista Nacional 
Hostosiano] condena atropello FBI,” 
<http://www.redbetances.com.>www.redbetances.com, February 12, 2006.
26Id.
27Melissa Correa Velázquez, “FBI choca con 
periodistas,” El Vocero, February 11, 2006.
28“Dalmau: tienen la Isla en estado de sitio,” El 
Diario/La Prensa, February 12, 2006.
29“Dalmau asegura FBI mantiene a la Isla en 
estado de sitio,” Primera Hora, February 11, 2006.
30Ricardo Cortés, “Anticipados más 
allanamientos,” El Nuevo Día, February 12, 2006.


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