[Ppnews] Ojeda’s assassination gives fresh impetus to the independence struggle

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 6 19:24:55 EDT 2005


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PUERTO RICO
Ojeda’s assassination gives fresh impetus to the independence struggle

BY ROSE ANA DUEÑAS­Special for Granma International­

CAPITALISM creates its own gravediggers, as Karl Marx and Frederich Engels 
explained in the Communist Manifesto. And the U.S. government, in its 
latest attack on the Puerto Rican people’s struggle to free themselves from 
U.S. colonial rule, has not only revealed how alive that struggle is, it 
has given it new impetus.

After the FBI assassinated long-time independence fighter Filiberto Ojeda 
Ríos on September 23, rage exploded among Puerto Ricans and others 
everywhere, whether or not they identify themselves as independentistas 
(pro-independence). Some 300 agents surrounded the 72-year-old’s home in 
Hormigueros, Puerto Rico – supposedly to arrest him for the 1983 robbery of 
an armored car –, refused his offer to turn himself in to a well-known 
journalist, shot him and left him to bleed to death.

Thousands demonstrated against this murder, both on the island and in the 
United States itself, where more than 1 million Puerto Ricans live. 
Thousands of people attended Ojeda’s wake and funeral, and students and 
others took down the U.S. flag from various points around the island in 
protest.

"Filiberto was a fighter for Puerto Rico in every way, completely committed 
to the struggle for independence by any means necessary, and they wanted to 
eliminate that symbol," said Rafael Cancel Miranda, a Puerto Rican 
nationalist leader who spent almost 27 years in Yankee jails for fighting 
for independence, and who spoke in an interview with Granma International. 
"They think that by doing so, they can kill the struggle for independence¼ 
they are trying to terrorize the people, to make them afraid."

In 1898, the United States invaded and seized Puerto Rico, a strategically 
valuable colony – or "commonwealth," as it is euphemistically referred to. 
Just like the Spanish colonialists before it, U.S. imperialism extracted 
most of the island’s wealth, and used its people as a cheap source of 
labor, treating them in a racist, degrading manner. For many years, Puerto 
Ricans were forced to speak English and salute the U.S. flag, and the 
distorted one-crop sugar economy obligated many to immigrate to Florida, 
New York and elsewhere to survive. Puerto Rican women were forcibly 
sterilized and Puerto Rican men were used as cannon fodder in U.S. wars.

The island was turned into the biggest U.S. military base in the 
hemisphere, a launching pad for U.S. military aggression in the region and 
beyond, and after World War II, the smaller island of Vieques, part of 
Puerto Rico, became the northern power’s most important land/sea training 
grounds. Live bombs and chemical weapons were tested there, despite untold 
damage to inhabitants’ health – like an extremely high cancer rate– and the 
environment.

"U.S. imperialism controls our country socially, politically, and 
economically. We are a militarily occupied country - we're saturated by 
U.S. military bases. (¼ ) They control the mass media. They control our 
schools. They indoctrinate us from the time we're children. They tell you 
who to hate and who not to hate. They can even indoctrinate you to hate 
yourself," Cancel Miranda noted in a 1998 interview with The Militant 
newspaper.

But the Puerto Rican people have always struggled and resisted. Ojeda was 
executed by the FBI on September 23, the anniversary of Grito de Lares, the 
revolutionary 1868 uprising against the Spanish celebrated by Puerto Rican 
patriots every year.

 From the start, the Puerto Rican independence struggle was linked with 
Cuba’s, as Cuban national hero José Martí stated in 1892: "The Cuban 
Revolutionary Party is constituted in order to gain ¼ the total 
independence of Cuba and to encourage and assist that of Puerto Rico."

"Because of its culture, its history, its traditions, and especially 
because of the express will of its people, Puerto Rico is a Latin American 
and Caribbean country, with its own national identity, which the Puerto 
Rican people have known how to maintain despite the colonizing process they 
have been subjected to," noted Rafael Dausá, Cuban Deputy Permanent 
Representative to the United Nations in 1998, speaking before the UN 
Special Committee on Decolonization.

Every year, Cuba speaks in favor of Puerto Rico’s decolonization, and for 
six consecutive years, the committee has approved a resolution to that 
effect, which is always ignored by the U.S. government, just as it ignored 
UN resolutions against South African apartheid, Israel’s oppression of the 
Palestinian people, and its own 44-year-old blockade against Cuba.

Instead, the U.S. government and its servile colonial administrators have 
always repressed the independence struggle. The FBI framed up and jailed 
Nationalist Party founder Albizu Campos in the 1930s, Rafael Cancel Miranda 
and his comrades in the 1950s, and the Hartford 15 – which Ojeda was 
accused of being part of – in the 1980s, among others. Puerto Rican 
political prisoners have always been given the worst treatment, just like 
that given to the five Cuban revolutionaries being held in U.S. prisons today.

Three Puerto Rican freedom fighters – Oscar López Rivera, Carlos Alberto 
Torres, and Haydée Beltrán – are still in U.S. dungeons after 25 years. Two 
more – José Pérez González and José Velez Acosta – have been held since 
2003 for their protests against U.S. military control over Vieques.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the FBI and CIA spied on tens of thousands of Puerto 
Ricans, putting them on "subversive" lists, and disrupting their 
organizations through the infamous Cointelpro operation. Federal cops were 
complicit in the 1978 police executions of two young independentistas at 
Cerro Maravilla. Just last year the FBI raided the headquarters of the 
water workers union in San Juan in the midst of a hard-fought strike.

Despite the repression, a mass campaign to free the Puerto Rican political 
prisoners won a victory in 1999 when President William Clinton released 11 
of the 17 held at the time, and the mass struggle to get the U.S. Navy out 
of Vieques finally won in 2003. During these years, the Puerto Rican people 
have expressed over and over that they are a nation:

­ In 1996, 100,000 people demonstrated in La Nación en Marcha (The Nation 
Marching) to protest against Puerto Rico becoming a U.S. state and against 
colonial Governor Pedro Roselló’s statement that "Puerto Rico is not and 
has never been a nation."
­ In 1997 and 1998, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the 
streets against the privatization of the telephone company in what became a 
general strike, chanting "Puerto Rico is not for sale!"
­ In 2000, more than 85,000 marched to oppose the U.S. Navy in Vieques, and 
that same year, some 40,000 turned out for the Grito de Lares commemoration.
­ In 2003, thousands celebrated in the streets when the U.S. Navy 
officially ended its presence in Vieques.

Cancel Miranda explained that the U.S. government tried to hurt the Puerto 
Rican independence struggle by killing Ojeda, who shot back in self-defense 
as FBI cops fired more than 100 rounds.

"They thought they could strike fear into the Puerto Rican people. But they 
have not been able to do so for more than 100 years. They have massacred us 
¼ they have persecuted us, they have jailed us – not by ones and twos, but 
by thousands – and they have not been able to defeat us. We have not been 
able to remove them from our national territory, but neither have they been 
able to defeat us, and Filiberto has given us a living example of that," he 
said.

"They think that by eliminating him, they are eliminating the struggle, the 
cause he defended, but against that, against ideas, there is no possible 
weapon."


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