[News] Puerto Rico - Cerro Maravilla: Questions still remain

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 26 20:12:54 EDT 2011

Cerro Maravilla: Questions still remain

By Rafael R. Díaz Torres
Special to Daily Sun
July 25, 2011

The complex Puerto Rican political landscape had 
one of its most difficult moments on July 25, 
1978. On that day, the pro-independence activists 
Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado were 
ambushed and brutally murdered by the police in 
an event that, according to advocates for the 
case and its victims, still has many unanswered 
questions and has not been properly solved after 
many years of investigation by both state and U.S. federal authorities.

The bloody outcome of that event had several years in the making.

In the first half of the 20th century, state 
repression and filing against people who 
advocated for Puerto Rican independence was not 
an uncommon characteristic in the polarized 
political experience of the island. The tensions 
and legacies from nationalist revolts from the 
1930s and 1950s were still latent after the 
creation of the Puerto Rican commonwealth in 
1952. Pro-independence activism was still seen as 
a threat even after the creation of the 
commonwealth and a new constitutional order that 
was authorized by the U.S. Congress in its plenary powers over Puerto Rico.

For the Puerto Rican police, it was not uncommon 
to employ the use of informers inside 
revolutionary and left-wing pro-independence 
movements. A young man from the San Juan 
Metropolitan area stood out and became the most 
notorious informer of the island’s police.
Alejandro González Malavé was recruited by the 
police in 1973 when he was only 15 years old. His 
espionage tasks started while he was a student at 
the Gabriela Mistral High School in Puerto Nuevo. 
In 1975 González Malavé became president of the 
Pro-Independence Student Federation a middle and 
high school organization that supports Puerto 
Rico’s political liberation. His next step was to 
become a regular member of the Pro-Independence 
University Federation as a student at the 
University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.

Once a “member” of the UPR’s pro-independence 
movement, González Malavé did not only provide 
intelligence information to the police, but also 
encouraged his left-wing “peers” to become 
involved in violent acts against civilians.

Under the name of “Armed Revolutionary Movement” 
(ARM), a group he founded, González Malavé 
encouraged his “colleagues” Soto Arriví and Darío 
Rosado to perpetrate an act of political protest 
by bringing down the mass communication towers 
located at Cerro Maravilla in the 
central-southern mountainous town of Villalba.

The police knew about the plan and as three 
members of the ARM arrived at the scene, agents 
were waiting for them and opened fire against the 
men. Darío Rosado died in the act and Soto Arriví 
was seriously injured, but unlike González 
Malavé, who received a minor wound and was 
immediately transported to a hospital in Jayuya, 
Soto Arriví did not receive first-aid help, nor 
was he transported to a medical center with a 
sense of urgency. Soto Arriví died after the 
police decided to transport him to a hospital 
once his death was deemed inevitable.

Relatives of the victims and critics of the 
incident still question why the police decided to 
kill the men instead of arresting them based on 
the intelligence they had about the Cerro 
Maravilla plan and prior violent attacks 
allegedly perpetrated by the members of the ARM 
group created by the police informer, González Malavé.

Organizations such as Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth 
Civil Rights Commission expressed the 
irregularities in the event and denounced the 
illegalities of using an informant as the author, 
inciter and provider of materials for the design 
and making of violent or terrorist acts.
The “Cerro Maravilla” case still resonates in 
contemporary political debates on the island 
despite the imprisonment of involved police 
officers and the mysterious murder of González Malavé in 1986.

As recently as the late 90s, former Puerto Rican 
governor, Carlos Romero Barceló, was still blamed 
for the deaths of Soto Arriví and Darío Rosado 
after a group of students at the UPR protested 
his presence on the campus arguing that, as the 
island’s first executive during that time, he 
knew about the Cerro Maravilla plan, and for that 
reason, was not welcome to address the students 
from that center of higher education.

In an official governmental act for the 
commemoration of Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth 
Constitution on the same day of the murders in 
1978, Romero Barceló used the official podium at 
the event in San Juan to congratulate the police 
officers for killing what he considered a group 
of terrorists. Later in 2003, the former governor 
and member of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party 
and U.S. Democratic Party admitted in a radio 
interview that if he would have known more about 
the police plot, he would not have congratulated 
the murderers of the two pro-independence young men.

The suspicions surrounding Romero Barceló’s 
involvement with the Cerro Maravilla case were 
brought to public opinion in 1978 and 1979 after 
the left-wing newspaper Claridad and the only 
English-language newspaper on the island, The San 
Juan Star, published several investigative 
reports that suggested the former governor’s 
knowledge and authorization of the plan. The 
reports from the newspapers also presented 
evidence regarding former federal district 
attorney, Julio Morales Sánchez, and his 
admission to having had three telephone 
conversations in which Romero Barceló attempted 
to intervene and request an end to the criminal 
investigations that were being conducted by the 
U.S. federal government. Romero Barceló 
eventually admitted having those conversations with Morales Sánchez.

“The admission from Carlos Romero Barceló 
regarding his conversations with federal district 
attorney, Julio Morales Sánchez, constituted a 
self-incrimination of his undue intervention in 
the processes of the federal grand jury” affirmed 
the deceased lawyer and former Puerto Rican 
Socialist Party leader, Juan Mari Brás in a story 
that was published in the Claridad editions of April 13 to April 19 of 1979.

While many questions remain to be answered in 
this complex event, the legacies of the Cerro 
Maravilla case are still present on an island 
with an uncertain political future. Every July 
25, some people celebrate the Puerto Rican 
Commonwealth Constitution, others condemn the 
U.S. invasion in 1898 and a group of advocates 
for the island’s political sovereignty make the 
trip to Villalba to remember the lives of two men 
who remain in the memories of those who continue 
to portray them as martyrs of a movement and 
sources of inspiration for an unfinished political struggle.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

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