[Ppnews] Carlos Alberto Torres - Free, After a Fashion, at Last

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 27 15:31:40 EDT 2010

Carlos Alberto Torres - Free, After a Fashion, at Last

Tuesday 27 July 2010

by: David Gespass, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

History is generally written by the victors. 
Thus, the American Revolution is recorded as a 
just struggle for liberation by colonies formerly 
subject to the whim of the despotic King George 
III. The "Tories" who supported the king and 
opposed independence, even though they made up as 
large a percentage of the population as the 
revolutionaries who called for independence, are 
reviled in our text books for choosing the wrong side.

Puerto Rico is today and has been since the 
Spanish-American War in 1898 a colony of the 
United States. It took half a century, until 
1948, before its people were allowed to elect 
their governor. In 1952, the US Congress declared 
it no longer a protectorate, but a 
"commonwealth." But while the euphemisms changed, 
Puerto Rico's colonial status did not. One might 
think that a country like the United States, 
incubated and born in the armed struggle against 
colonial authority, would show some empathy to 
those who chose the path of revolution against an occupier. One would be wrong.

I met Carlos Alberto Torres in 1985 after a 
National Lawyers Guild colleague from Chicago 
stayed at our home in Birmingham when she visited 
him in federal prison in Alabama. By then, he had 
served five years of his 78-year sentence for 
"seditious conspiracy," the official charge for 
engaging, as a member of the Puerto Rican 
independence group, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación 
Nacional (FALN), the Armed Forces for National 
Liberation, in revolutionary struggle for the 
liberation of the colony from the United States. 
Not entirely parenthetically, Judge Learned Hand 
referred to the charge of conspiracy as "that 
darling of the modern federal prosecutor's 
nursery," since it requires so little in the way 
of proof. Indeed, whatever Carlos was convicted 
and sentenced for, it was not for causing physical harm to a single person.

After that visit and over the next several years 
until he was moved to a more remote federal 
prison, I was fortunate to see him periodically 
though, in retrospect, not often enough. Carlos 
never imposed on me and always assured me that 
knowing I was available if he needed help was 
enough for him. But he was far from friends and 
family and I was his one personal contact with 
the free world. His father was able to visit him 
once that I recall while he was in Alabama.

During the years he was in Alabama, his interest 
was rarely over his own fate. More often, he 
would want to talk to me about the needs of 
fellow inmates or matters of concern to the 
population as a whole. Still, I had the 
opportunity to discuss with him how he should 
reconcile his desire to get out of prison with 
his political principles. He had, at his trial, 
refused to recognize the jurisdiction of a 
colonial court to try him, insisting he be 
treated as a national of a free and independent 
country seized as a prisoner of war.

The man I remember was soft-spoken, reflective, 
serious and caring. He was certainly committed to 
the cause of his homeland's independence and the 
betterment of the Puerto Rican people. One can 
debate his tactical choices and whether 
independence is the best course for Puerto Rico, 
though it seems odd that being a colony would 
ever be a preferable option to the colonized. 
What no one who has sat down and talked to Carlos 
can doubt is his fundamental decency and his 
sincerity. That is something President Clinton 
had not done before he offered clemency in 1999 
to 12 other Puerto Rican political prisoners, but refused to include Carlos.

Despite his more than 30 years in custody, Carlos 
contributed much. He invested in his fellow 
prisoners, teaching them literacy in both English 
and Spanish, earned a college degree and mastered 
the skills of painting and pottery making, 
exhibiting his work throughout the US, Puerto 
Rico and Mexico. But he could have contributed so 
much more had he been freed sooner. Finally, he 
is about to be released on parole. Celebrations 
took place July 26 in Chicago and are planned for 
July 27 in Puerto Rico, to honor him on his 
release. It is indeed cause for celebration, but 
thoughts of what might and should have been in a 
world and a country that looked at the real 
individual and not the image portrayed by 
prosecutors and the media, lend a sobriety and 
somberness to the joy of the occasion.

Not quite a year ago, I became the president of 
the National Lawyers Guild. As such, I have the 
good fortune to boast of the remarkable work done 
by our members, which is to say to brag about 
what other people do. So, I take pride in the 
report that our International Committee presented 
to the UN Decolonization Hearings on June 21 of 
this year, even though I did not contribute a 
comma to it. The report exposed the ways in which 
the United States maintains 
control over Puerto Rico and discussed the 
resistance to that control and the human rights violations that accompany it.

It then went on to discuss the (to coin a phrase) 
cruel and unusual sentences imposed on Puerto 
Rican independentistas. It mentioned two in 
particular who had spent decades in custody, 
Carlos and Oscar López Rivera, as well as Avelino 
González Claudio. The Guild, along with many 
other organizations, had previously passed 
resolutions calling for their release and, 
following the presentation, so, too, did the 
Decolonization Committee. Thus, our happiness 
over Carlos' release is further tempered by the 
continuing incarceration of the other two 
prisoners. The campaign for their release 
continues. We will do our part, but we recognize 
that it will be - as it always has been - a 
larger movement than just the National Lawyers 
Guild that wins justice for the oppressed.

For further information click <http://www.boricuahumanrights.org>here.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

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