[Ppnews] Puerto Rico - Our Resistance: An Interview With Rafael Cancel Miranda

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 27 13:29:00 EST 2012

    Our Resistance: An Interview With Rafael Cancel Miranda


Juan Antonio Ocasio Rivera

/Rafael Cancel Miranda is an iconic figure in his beloved Puerto Rico. 
Part of the nationalist commando attack on the U.S. Congress in 1954, he 
served 25 years in prison with his comrades until pardoned and released 
by President Carter in 1979 amid intense international pressure. Coming 
from a staunch nationalist family background, Cancel Miranda is now the 
elder statesman of the Puerto Rican independence movement, providing 
guidance and at times fiery motivation. Though living in a society 
politically divided among supporters of statehood, Commonwealth, and 
independence, Cancel Miranda is consistently approached by people on the 
street of all political persuasions who express admiration and respect. 
His longevity, involvement, and knowledge of Puerto Rican politics and 
its legendary leaders make him a central figure to understand when 
examining the question of Puerto Rico's independence. /

*What is your overall impression of the book /A plena voz: nuestra 
resistencia 2005--2010/? *

The book demonstrates how the FBI has attacked the Puerto Rican 
independence community and demonstrates that this country has 
nevertheless continued its struggle, that it has not allowed itself to 
be intimidated. The book clearly shows that there is persecution by the 
so-called FBI, by the so-called U.S. Federal Court, and by the U.S. 
federal agencies, but that we are still on our feet. We hear the 
revolutionary voices of the struggle through the author.

In the book the former Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation 
(FALN) political prisoner Elizam Escobar notes that "nationalist 
activists and intellectuals tend to have a more comprehensive and 
critical view of nationalism than those cosmopolitan intellectuals who 
depend on the institutions of the [U.S.] metropolis."

1414 Photo Credit: primerahora.com

There is the nationalism that defends its nation, Puerto Rico. And there 
are the other so-called intellectuals who defend the interests of the 
powerful. Elizam is describing the revolutionary nationalist 
intellectual who fights for his nation, for the homeland, which is 
natural. The others are those who lend themselves to serve any which 
power. If the Germans were here, they would serve the Germans. If the 
Chinese were here, they would serve the Chinese. If the Martians were 
here, they would don little antennae. I do not consider these people 
intellectuals because they do not have the capacity to properly judge 
what is, or what is not, correct.

*González Cruz asserts that Puerto Rican revolutionary nationalism has 
sustained an effective cultural and political resistance through the use 
of propaganda armada (armed struggle), political participation in the 
diaspora, and capturing the attention of the international community at 
various forums. What thoughts can you share on this?*

The stronger our Boricuas are in U.S. exile, the stronger our struggle. 
As [pro-independence activist Juan Antonio] Corretjer put it, we are 
Puerto Rican even if born on the moon, and there are Puerto Ricans 
living in Chicago, New York, or any part of the United States, and they 
continue being Puerto Rican---this is their homeland, we are one nation. 
The colonial question has forced many to leave without really wanting 
to. One of the reasons I am talking to you here in my home in Río 
Piedras is thanks to those Boricuas in the United States from the FALN 
who in their communiqués demanded the freedom of the five nationalists, 
and I am one of them.

*The book speaks about Filiberto Ojeda Ríos's belief that revolutionary 
violence is a response to state violence, about conquering state power, 
and that this implies a transformation of the country so that everyone 
would be able to participate in the democratic process. What thoughts 
can you share on this? *

First, Ojeda Ríos was a man of peace, but of peace with justice. If 
someone violently attacks your loved ones, then that gives you the right 
to defend them with violence by any means necessary, right? But in this 
system, the only ones who have the right to use violence are the 
powerful and their lackeys, not the people. When the people defend 
themselves, they are terrorists, but the powerful can commit all kinds 
of abuses against the people, like recently the clubbing of the young 
students [protesting neo-liberal education policies] in Canovanas, mere 
high school kids. But that is not considered violence by the state; that 
is just "democratic violence." I agree with Ojeda Ríos that 
revolutionary violence is a product of reactionary violence---the 
violence of the powerful who want to dominate and exploit the world. I 
also agree with his call for the unity of all our patriotic forces. The 
more united we are, the stronger we are; the more divided we are, the 
weaker we are. Ojeda Ríos constantly called for the unity of our 
patriotic groups. It is not a whim but a necessity if we wish to save 
ourselves as a people.

*What is the major obstacle to obtain that unity? *

Colonialism itself. Colonialism creates frustration and confusion. It's 
difficult to defeat because it is a creation of the very same colonial 
system that divides us. Sometimes they install people within the 
movement to divide us. Sometimes there is frustration, but we should 
never get frustrated because we are fighting for something worthwhile. 
We must see ourselves as brothers. Fidel [Castro] recently said 
something that I enjoyed very much: "We can be friends although we have 
our differences." Sometimes we forget that and we become our own worst 
enemies instead of fighting the real enemy.

Today they have even more methods to control even our psyches through 
the almost complete control of the media. They want to transform the 
schools into nests of yanqui assimilation so that people lose their 
identity as Boricuas. They are de--Puerto Ricanizing us. But in spite of 
114 years of colonialism, and all of this, there are still young people 
who struggle. I have said it a thousand times in different countries I 
have visited, like Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Dominican 
Republic. I am proud of my people because the struggle continues even 
though they have come at us with everything in order to decimate us as a 

*The book discusses several victories won throughout the modern history 
of Puerto Rico's independence movement, including the popular struggles 
to end the U.S. Navy's use of Vieques island as a bombing range, to 
release political prisoners, to end corruption in the pro-statehood 
party, and to protect the Valley of Lajas from its use as a Navy radar 
site. What connection do you see between these victories and the 
assassination of Ojeda Ríos and other actions they have taken against 
the people? *

This is what the U.S. government always does when they see a people who 
are rising up. They try to terrorize them. They have seen that there 
have been victories and that thousands of people are willing to march 
for the freedom of the prisoners. The Vieques campaign demonstrated that 
people were not afraid to struggle. So they had to use what they always 
use: the mafia, the gun, to instill fear. But despite all they have done 
to terrorize the people, this country is no longer terrified.

There have always been people who struggle. They saw how the students 
were willing to confront them and their clubs. One day I went over to 
the student strikes, and the police were about to assault them. I told 
them, "Let's leave, because they are just going to club your heads, and 
you have nothing to fight back with." But the students showed that they 
had courage. [Puerto Rican independence leader] Don Pedro Albizu Campos 
once said in front of 500 Puerto Ricans, "With you, we have enough to 
free our country." And it's true, with 500 very prepared men and women 
who are committed to the struggle for dignity and liberty, it could be 
done. Remember that the enemy is neither invincible nor omnipotent. It 
can be done, and Ojeda Ríos knew this. And González knows this too. In 
his book, I picked up that he knows this as well. That it can be done.

*Ojeda Ríos talked about the necessity for a different campaign, saying 
that the system of political parties was no longer functioning. And he 
talked about the need to wage another type of campaign. What do you 
understand that other campaign to be? *

I remember an expression used by Don Pedro: "If elections were useful 
for the Puerto Rican people, the yanquis would prohibit them." Through 
these elections they have us fighting among ourselves. I have never 
participated in a colonial election, but I respect those who in good 
faith believe that in that way they are helping. They are not my 
enemies. This is what we must see, although we have differences. You 
know in everything there is a balance if we really want to find it and 
if don't then we blind ourselves into thinking that we have the magic 
formula. No one has the magic formula. If we had it, we would have been 
free a long time ago, because courage we have had. There are different 
ways to struggle---the thing is to struggle, and to respect each others' 


Juan Antonio Ocasio Rivera is a Puerto Rico--based activist, social 
worker, and professor. He has written for several online publications, 
including /CounterPunch, Upside Down World, /and /New York Latino 
Journal, a/nd was active in the New York--based All of New York With 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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