[Pnews] The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 6 11:40:25 EDT 2016


  The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico

by Carmelo Ruiz <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/carmelo-ruiz/>, May 
6, 2016

On April 20 the FBI detained Puerto Rican pro-independence activist 
Orlando González-Claudio. He was driving his car along the Caribbean 
island nation’s Route 2 when several US government vehicles intercepted 
him and forced him to stop. They told him they would take DNA samples 
from his body and that they were fully authorized to force him to 
comply. If he did not cooperate they would sedate him, they said. They 
would sample his DNA the easy way or the hard way. González-Claudio 
voluntarily got off his car and entered the FBI vehicle he was led to. 
He was then handcuffed and driven to the San Juan Medical Center, where 
the samples were taken. Afterwards he was released and taken back to his 
car. The agents would not tell him what were they investigating, and he 
was not charged with anything.

González-Claudio is a member of Los Macheteros, a revolutionary 
organization that fights for the independence of Puerto Rico by whatever 
means necessary, including covert action and armed struggle. In August 
1985 he was arrested along with a dozen other Macheteros and charged 
with participating in a heist that took place in a Wells Fargo cash 
depot in Connecticut in September 1983. $7.2 million ($17.2 million in 
2016 dollars) were taken from the facility, making it the largest cash 
robbery in US history at the time. Dubbed Operation Aguila Blanca (White 
Eagle), the Macheteros took credit for the action and announced the 
money would be used to fund the political and military activities of the 
independence movement. There were warrants also for the arrest of two of 
Orlando’s brothers, Avelino and Norberto, but neither could not be 
found. Both would remain at large for over two decades before being 

In Orlando’s sentencing the court admitted that the Wells Fargo robbery 
was not motivated by selfish, criminal motives, but that it was a 
political act to further the cause of Puerto Rican independence. Orlando 
holds that this is an acknowledgement of historical importance on the 
part of the US government, for it was admitting that the Macheteros were 
not common criminals and that their heist was not motivated by personal 
financial gain. After the 1985 arrests the people of Puerto Rico were 
able to see, through the press’s cameras, that the Macheteros did not 
spend the Wells Fargo money on luxuries, and that their homes and living 
conditions were rather modest. The US authorities never recovered a 
single penny of the money, and to this day do not know for certain where 
it ended up.

After getting out of jail in 1994 and finishing probation in 2002, 
Orlando González-Claudio reintegrated himself fully into the 
independence movement and still proudly identifies himself publicly as a 
Machetero. He was later jailed again, this time for his participation in 
the civil disobedience campaign against the US Navy’s presence in the 
island municipality of Vieques, in which over 1,000 other people were 
also imprisoned.

He currently lives in Vega Baja, where he farms with his wife Rosa 
Villalonga, who was born and raised in Cuba. Together they run Teatro 
Campo, a community cultural center that hosts a variety of cultural and 
patriotic activities, including organic agriculture workshops, poetry 
recitals, theater, cinema and concerts.

That same week the FBI stopped another Machetero, Juan Segarra-Palmer, 
and put him through the same process. He was arrested in 1985 along with 
Orlando, convicted of seditious conspiracy, the Wells Fargo heist and 
other charges, and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Segarra-Palmer 
was released through an executive clemency offered to him and other 
jailed /independentista/ fighters by US president Bill Clinton in 
September 1999. Being deemed more dangerous than the others, he was not 
released immediately but got a sentence reduction instead. He remained 
in jail until January 2004.

On Thursday the 21st of April they came for Norberto Cintrón-Fiallo, who 
was detained while visiting a drug store. Cintrón-Fiallo is a veteran of 
revolutionary struggles in Puerto Rico and in the Dominican Republic, 
where he was born and raised. Like the other two, he also an 
/independentista/ who knows prison. In the early 1980’s he was jailed 
twice for refusing to cooperate with two federal grand juries that had 
been empaneled to investigate two major military operations of the 
Macheteros. The first of these was a December 1979 attack in which the 
Macheteros ambushed a bus carrying US Navy personnel in the Sabana Seca 
sector of the municipality of Toa Baja. They sprayed the vehicle with 
machine gun fire, killing two of the occupants and wounding another ten.

The Sabana Seca attack was a response to the death the previous month of 
Angel Rodríguez-Cristóbal, one of the top people at the Puerto Rico 
Socialist League, who was jailed for civil disobedience in Vieques and 
taken to prison in the US. One day he was found dead in his cell in 
Tallahassee federal prison. The authorities said it was a suicide but 
nobody in the independence movement believed it. It was seen as a 
reprisal and a warning against Puerto Ricans who advocate independence.

The second grand jury investigated a January 1981 Machetero bombing 
attack in several warplanes of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 
Muñiz Air Base were destroyed by explosives. No one was killed or hurt 
in the attack, which the Macheteros named Operation Pitirre. In spite of 
its name, there is nothing national about this airborne military unit. 
As is the case with the National Guards of the fifty US states, the PR 
Air National Guard can be “federalized” and called into service by the 
president of the United States through executive order. In 1950 its 
planes strafed and bombed the towns of Utuado and Jayuya during the 
Nationalist revolt, and in 1954 they provided air cover for the 
Guatemalan rebels who, with the aid and direction of the US Central 
Intelligence Agency, overthrew the democratically elected president 
Jacobo Arbenz.

Arguing that a Puerto Rican /independentista/ should never cooperate 
with US law enforcement in any way, Cintrón-Fiallo defied the two grand 
juries and went to jail twice for contempt. Other /independentistas/ who 
were summoned to testify, including his brother Federico, also refused 
to comply and were thus imprisoned too. As a result of this 
non-cooperation, both grand juries ended up empty handed and unable to 
issue any indictments.

Norberto Cintrón-Fiallo has had other run-ins with the colonial 
authorities. In 1981 he was indicted for a bank robbery allegedly 
carried out by the Macheteros, but his case was dismissed when no 
witnesses could identify him. And in February 2006 the FBI broke into 
the apartment where he lives with his wife Liliana Laboy, as well as 
into the homes of other /independentistas/, searched the place and 
confiscated computers. No one was arrested or charged, and the FBI never 
explained what evidence they were after.

To this day, after 35 years, no one has ever been arrested or indicted 
for the Base Muñiz attack. And with regards to Sabana Seca, the FBI had 
never made any arrests or apparently had any leads that would stand up 
in court, until in 2014 Juan Galloza-Acevedo, a Puerto Rican living in 
New York, was convicted of participating in the attack. He allegedly 
confessed and gave the prosecution the names of everyone involved. 
Citing his advanced age and frail health, the court sentenced him to 
only five years.

The local press reported that the three detentions were the result of an 
order signed by federal judge José Fusté, which calls for a total of 
sixteen individuals to have their DNA sampled. The order does not say 
who are the other thirteen persons to be sampled, and does not say what 
is the purpose of the investigation. The press also reported that the US 
Navy’s criminal investigation service (NCIS) is working jointly with the 
FBI in whatever is being investigated, leading many /independentistas/ 
to believe that the US government is setting up a new grand jury to 
arrest and indict people for the Sabana Seca attack, with the help of 
Galloza-Acevedo’s “confession”.

“In recent days the /federales/ have increased their customary 
repression against sectors that struggle against colonialism and 
exploitation”, denounced the Puerto Rico Socialist Front 
<http://frentesocialistapr.blogspot.com/2016/05/primero-de-mayo.html> on 
the first of May. “These detentions are another example of them doing 
and undoing as they please. Don’t ever believe that they are trying to 
do ‘justice’, they use their force to repress us all. Today it’s against 
certain /independentistas, /but their objective is to submit any person 
that stands in the way of their plans and profits; remember they mess 
with public housing projects (/caseríos/) and poor neighborhoods 
(/barriadas/), never with the rich.”

The idea that the US government’s actions are related events in 1979 “is 
what everyone is speculating about, but we have no way to know for 
sure”, according to Wilma Reverón, spokesperson for the pro-independence 
organization Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH).

“In terms of what is happening, it seems to me an abuse that has no 
comparison in the history of Puerto Rico. The United States may force a 
person to submit to DNA testing as something constitutional, but in 
Puerto Rico our constitution protects the right to privacy. We have no 
way of knowing if these three comrades are under suspicion of a felony. 
It is an obscene exercise of force. It’s like an urge to oppress and 
humiliate ‘because I can’. We are talking about something that happened 
in 1979. 37 years have passed. They have supposedly found a person that 
is cooperating (Galloza-Acevedo)”, declared Reverón 

Many /independentistas/ suspect that these US government moves also have 
the purpose of intimidating and undermining popular struggles against 
neoliberal austerity measures that the government is imposing in 
response to the wishes of bondholders who want to collect on the 
island’s ballooning $72 billion public debt.

“On April 6 the PPD (ruling party) passed Law 21, ‘Law of Emergency 
Moratorium and Financial Rehabilitation of Puerto Rico’”, explained the 
Socialist Front. “It grants the governor the kind of powers Spanish 
military governors had; that law renders the separation of powers 
ineffective, it reduces the powers of the legislative and judicial 
branches; provides for jail sentences for anyone who defies it; it does 
not permit questioning the legality of the governor’s actions, and gives 
Fortaleza (the governor’s mansion) the power to control all of the 
(Puerto Rico) government’s budget and to decide how to spend what’s left.”

In addition to these and other recent measures, the US Congress is 
considering the imposition of a fiscal control board (/junta/) with 
absolute powers to force Puerto Rico to pay creditors no matter how, 
even if it means slashing public funding for health and education or 
raiding pension funds. The FBI detentions of prominent 
/independentistas/ happen precisely when popular forces- organized 
labor, student movements, community groups, environmentalists, the left, 
and others- are stepping up their organizing against the imposition of 
the /junta/ and against other forms of neoliberalism and colonialism.

“We are very concerned that these may be actions to try to intimidate 
and discourage the people of Puerto Rico, not just the independence 
movement, because there are diverse sectors that are learning what the 
fiscal control board is about, that it is a dictatorship legitimized by 
US law, not by the people of Puerto Rico, and there is talk of 
organizing the resistance against this /junta/”, said attorney Eduardo 
Villanueva, former president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association and 
spokesman for the Human Rights Committee.

Villanueva told the /El Nuevo Día 
daily newspaper that “the fundamental right, such as the right to 
association and expression, is violated when state power is used to 
threaten and intimidate when these people are searched in front of other 
people and have samples taken from them without having been accused of 

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