[Ppnews] Puerto Rican Independence Movement under Attack in New York and San Juan

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 28 10:52:04 EST 2008


http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/susler280108.html

<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/susler280108.html>Puerto 
Rican Independence Movement under Attack in New York and San Juan
by Jan Susler

"It appears to us to be a reinitiation of the 
harassment of independentists."1 -- U.S. 
Congressman José Serrano, speaking to FBI director Robert Mueller

An unexpected knock on the door . . . men in 
trench coats handing you a grand jury subpoena . 
. . .  If you're involved in the movement for the 
independence of Puerto Rico, this isn't just a 
not-so-fond memory of the COINTELPRO era.  It's 
2008 in New York City, and you are Christopher 
Torres, a young social worker; Tania Frontera, a 
young graphic designer; or Julio Pabón Jr., a young filmmaker from the Bronx.

Their subpoenas have aroused vigorous support for 
them, not just in New York, but in cities across 
the U.S. and in Puerto Rico.  On the island, over 
forty organizations united to condemn this latest 
wave of repression and convened a demonstration 
on January 11 where over a thousand people 
participated under the theme "In the Face of 
Repression, Unity and Struggle," with placards 
and banners  calling for the FBI and the federal 
courts to leave the island.  Simultaneous 
activities took place in Brooklyn, Hartford, 
Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, 
Philadelphia, Orlando, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 
and Cleveland.  As resolutions condemning the 
repression emanated from the National Lawyers 
Guild New York City Chapter, the American 
Association of Jurists, the Interfaith Prisoners 
of Conscience Project, and the Latin America 
Solidarity Coalition, the New York Spanish 
language daily El Diario/La Prensa published an 
editorial ringing the alarm bell, and U.S. 
congressman José Serrano telephoned FBI director Mueller to voice his concern.

Why the subpoenas?  Why now?  And why the resounding, unified denunciations?

Dating back to the era of Spanish colonial 
control over Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican people 
have organized to wrest their sovereignty from 
foreign domination.  That resistance continued 
after the U.S. invasion and occupation in 
1898.  When the colonizers repressed and 
criminalized public organizing for independence, 
clandestine organizations formed, including the 
Popular Boricua Army -- Macheteros in the 
1980s.  In 1985, the FBI arrested and almost 
killed its leader, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, accusing 
him of participation in the 1983 expropriation of 
$7.5 million U.S. government insured dollars from 
a Wells Fargo depot in Hartford, 
Connecticut.  After his release on bail, Ojeda 
returned to clandestine existence.  In spite of 
the FBI's ever-increasing reward for information 
leading to his capture, he remained underground 
for some fifteen years. On September 23, 2005, 
however, a squad of FBI assassins circled his 
home, shot him, and left him to bleed to 
death.2  The assassination outraged the entire 
nation, and the FBI became a pariah.

Hoping to distract public attention from their 
own criminal conduct and justify their presence 
on the island, particularly in the post-911 era, 
the FBI soon went on the offensive.  On February 
10, 2006, allegedly in a continuing investigation 
of the Macheteros, they raided the homes and 
businesses of several independence activists and 
in the process pepper-sprayed the nation's 
journalists who were covering the FBI's 
paramilitary incursions.  Again, the entire 
country expressed its outrage.  Since then, 
activists have been stopped, searched, and 
harassed, with the homes and offices of many 
others, including attorneys and movement leaders, 
mysteriously broken into in events reminiscent of 
the infamous black-bag COINTELPRO jobs: 
computers, digital cameras, and cell phones are 
taken, while other valuable items remain untouched.

Recent rumors are that the head of the FBI in San 
Juan, Luis Fraticelli, is close to the end of his 
tenure and has given instructions to accelerate 
efforts to neutralize the remains of the clandestine group.3

For Fernando Martín, a leader of the Puerto Rican 
Independence Party, the FBI "wants to clean up 
its image after the assassination of Filiberto 
(Ojeda Ríos), because they want to be able to say 
that in Puerto Rico, they investigate people of 
all parties (and) somehow salvage their image after their selective attacks."4

Julio Muriente, a leader of the National Hostos 
Independence Movement, stated, "The legal facade 
of this repressive operation is directed against 
the Macheteros, but the real intention is against 
the entire independentist movement, including 
against the people of Puerto Rico," calling it 
"an attack which is not against any particular 
organization, but against a political, social, 
patriotic movement, and against a people."5

U.S. Congressman José Serrano (D-NY), who was 
instrumental in getting the FBI to disclose 
thousands of pages of records documenting its 
illegal surveillance of and intervention in the 
independence movement6, said of these subpoenas, 
"It certainly appears to be a fishing 
expedition,"7 which, he noted, harkens back to 
the days when, according to FBI director 
Freeh,  the agency engaged in "egregious illegal 
action, maybe criminal action."8

The subpoenas, initially returnable on January 
11, were continued to February 1.  Attorneys 
announced they would file motions to quash the 
subpoenas.  Frontera's attorney, Martin Stolar, 
noted that "if the motion is denied, Tania will 
have to appear before the grand jury, and may 
decide not to testify, invoking her constitutional rights."9

Organizations in Puerto Rico have announced they 
will protest in various towns of the island on 
February 1 in defense and support of the three 
young people subpoenaed, with the themes "Wake 
Up, Boricua, Defend Your Own!" and "the Grand 
Jury Is illegal!"  Additional protests are being 
planned in U.S. cities as well.

The consequences of not collaborating with the 
grand jury are well known to those who support 
independence.  Norberto Cintrón Fiallo, whose 
home was searched during the February 10, 2006 
FBI incursion, and who participated in the 
January 11 protest in San Juan, refused to 
collaborate with various grand juries 
investigating the independence movement in both 
Puerto Rico and New York in 1981 and 1982 and 
served close to three years in prison as a 
result.110 Julio Rosado, who participated in the 
January 11 protest in New York, resisted grand 
juries investigating the Puerto Rican 
independence movement, serving nine months for 
civil contempt in 1977, and later much of his 
three year sentence for criminal contempt.  "They 
have always been there, whenever they want to 
intimidate," he said, adding that he is convinced 
there will be more subpoenas to come.111

A New York daily Spanish language newspaper 
expressed editorial concern over the political 
witch hunt, in words which should give us all pause:

Because of laws initiated by the Bush 
Administration and passed by our Congress, the 
legal protections that would give political 
dissidents a right to due process have been 
eroded.  The net is wide for casting someone with 
"suspicious" political beliefs, without having 
been charged, tried or convicted of a crime, as a 
threat.  [ . . . ]  Because the attacks on civil 
liberties and human rights and the historical 
intimidation and repression of Puerto Rican 
independence supporters are interrelated, activists must make those links.

That's all the more urgent considering the 
silence of most elected leaders and the virtual 
media blackout on the subpoenas.  In the context 
of secret prisons, torture, detention without 
trial, and warrantless wiretapping, the FBI's 
fishing should be a concern for anyone interested 
in rescuing this country from a rising police state.112



1  José Delgado, 
<http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/noticia/politica/noticias/habla_con_el_jefe_del_fbi/343316>"Habla 
con el jefe del FBI," El Nuevo Día, January 9, 2008.

2  In the white papers designed to avoid criminal 
liability, the government blamed some of the 
errors in the operation on Luis Fraticelli, the 
Puerto Rican special agent in charge of its San 
Juan field office.  Not coincidentally, 
Fraticelli had also participated in the 1985 near 
assassination of Ojeda Ríos.  See: U.S. 
Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector 
General, "A Review of the September 2005 Shooting 
Incident Involving the Federal Bureau of 
Investigations and Filiberto Ojeda Ríos," August 
2006, available at 
<http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/index.htm>www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/index.htm.

3  José Delgado, 
<http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/blog/345828>"El 
caso de Nueva York," El Nuevo Día, January 14, 
2008<http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/blog/345828>.

4  Combined Services, 
<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/%20%20http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/noticia/politica/noticias/denuncian_persecucion_contra_independentistas/340562>"Denunciation 
of persecution of independentists:Fernando Martín 
criticized the newspaper El Nuevo Día 
<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/%20%20http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/noticia/politica/noticias/denuncian_persecucion_contra_independentistas/340562>for 
articles published December 23," El Nuevo Día, January 4, 2008.

5  AP, "Repudio independentista a citaciones a 
Gran Jurado," El Vocero, January 7, 2008.

6  The disclosed documents are being classified 
at Center for Puerto Rican Studies of the City 
University of New York at Hunter College.  See: 
<http://www.pr-secretfiles.net/.>www.pr-secretfiles.net/.

7  José Delgado, 
<http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/noticia/politica/noticias/habla_con_el_jefe_del_fbi/343316>"Habla 
con el jefe del FBI: José Serrano le expresó a 
Robert Mueller el malestar que existe entre los 
boricuas en Nueva York por la citación de tres 
jóvenes," El Nuevo Día, January 9, 2008.

8  Matthew Hay Brown, 
<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/cited%20at%20http://www.pr-secretfiles.net/news_details.html?article=73>"Puerto 
Rico Files Show FBI's Zeal; For Decades, Secret 
U.S. Dossiers Targeted Suspected," Orlando Sentinel, November 06, 2003.

9  Ruth E. Hernández Beltrán/Agencia EFE, 
<http://www.primerahora.com/XStatic/primerahora/template/nota.aspx?n=146663>"Posponen 
citación a independentistas de Nueva York," Primera Hora, January 11, 2008.

10  José "Ché" Paralitici, Sentencia Impuesta: 
100 Años de Encarcelamientos por la Independencia 
de Puerto Rico, Ediciones Puerto Histórico (San 
Juan, Puerto Rico: 2004), pp. 339-341.

11  Ruth E. Hernández Beltrán/ Agencia EFE, 
"Posponen citación a independentistas de Nueva 
York," Primera Hora, January 11, 2008, 
http://www.primerahora.com/XStatic/primerahora/template/nota.aspx?n=146663. 
Rosado was one of five supporters of independence 
so imprisoned.  Ricardo Romero, Steven Guerra, 
María Cueto, who are Mexican, and Rosado's 
brother Andres, simultaneously served time for 
criminal contempt of the same grand jury.  See: 
United States v. Rosado et al., 728 F.2d 89 (2nd Cir. 1984).

12 
<http://www.eldiariony.com/noticias/detail.aspx?section=25&desc=Editorial&id=1794932>"Constructing 
an Enemy," Editorial, El Diario/La Prensa, January 17, 2008.

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<http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec99/clemency_9-8.html>
Jan Susler
<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/susler140206.html>Jan 
<http://www.sunypress.edu/details.asp?id=61105>Susler 
is a partner with the 
<http://www.peopleslawoffice.com/>People's Law 
Office in Chicago, which she joined in 1982 after 
a six year stint at Prison Legal Aid, the legal 
clinic at Southern Illinois University's School 
of Law.  Her long history of work on behalf of 
political prisoners and prisoners' rights 
includes litigation, advocacy, and educational 
work around USP Marion and the Women's High 
Security Unit at Lexington, KY.  Her practice at 
PLO focuses in addition on police misconduct 
civil rights litigation.  For several years she 
was an adjunct professor of criminal justice at 
Northeastern Illinois University and has also 
taught at the University of Puerto 
Rico.  Representing the Puerto Rican political 
prisoners for over two decades, she served as 
lead counsel in the efforts culminating in the 
1999 presidential commutation of their 
sentences.  She continues to represent those who remain imprisoned.

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