Puerto Rican independence leader’s widow accuses State Dept., FBI of murder

ojeda-crime-scene.jpg

The scene of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos’s bloody murder. Note the “crime scene” tape, a perfect ironic touch.

A little item from Aporrea:

Beatriz Rosado, the widow of the Puerto Rican pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, accused the US State Department on Friday of having assassinated her husband in order to neutralize the growing support for his cause.

In order to pay for the death of the social leader, the FBI “and all mechanisms of colonial control” must leave Puerto Rico, said Rosado from Havana, where she participated in a day of solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico, according to Prensa Latina.

Ojeda, leader of the Boricua Popular Army (a.k.a. the Macheteros), died on September 23, 2005, when his house was raided by agents of the FBI, who shot him and left him to bleed to death.

Rosado denounced the impunity of the assassins, and that the Department of Justice in the United States has blocked all attempts to investigate, claiming national security concerns.

“I never expected anything of the US authorities, but there is no forum in my country either that will guarantee justice to the independence movement,” said Rosado.

She added that she is waiting for a response from the Human Rights Council in Geneva, although she would prefer that the assassination inspire the struggle against the colonial conditions in which Puerto Rico remains.

Rosado’s visit to Cuba coincides with the revelation that the FBI chief in Puerto Rico tried to pass off Ojeda’s murder as a suicide.

Translation mine.

It may seem strange, but in Puerto Rico the FBI serves the exact same function that the CIA has served since its inception everywhere else in Latin America. Why the FBI? Well, even though it’s not a US state, Puerto Rico is still considered US territory, for some unfathomable reason. Puerto Ricans don’t have equal rights as US citizens, however, unless they immigrate to the US. Those living on the islands of that little nation are colonial dependents. They can elect nonvoting representatives, who I’m guessing don’t get a whole lot done for them either. They don’t get a say in the functions of the US government (probably because to grant them that would mean that they would incessantly petition for independence, or something like that.)

Meanwhile, the US government still exploits Puerto Rico shamelessly; the little island of Vieques was, until fairly recently, a bombing practice site for the US military. A series of protests starting in 1999 eventually got the military to pull out, but there are still huge dumps of toxic and dangerous munitions in need of cleaning up. The island also has a number of social problems that the US government is in no hurry to do anything about: poverty, joblessness, a crying need for better healthcare, lack of education, lack of futures, and high teen pregnancy rates. No doubt the US authorities are hoping that this will all just sweep itself under the rug!

What doesn’t seem strange is that the FBI would want Filiberto Ojeda Ríos dead. If elected Puerto Rican representatives are powerless to actually represent Puerto Rico before the US government, it stood to reason that Puerto Rican activists would have to take matters into their own hands. Ojeda did it guerrilla style. He and a group of fellow Macheteros robbed a Connecticut Wells Fargo depot in 1983 to finance their operations, which included several bomb placements inside the US. For that, he got a price slapped on his head by you-know-who. It was claimed (probably falsely) that this cash was actually destined for Cuba. After being released on bond in 1990, he gave his captors the slip by cutting off the electronic ankle bracelet that had been attached to monitor him and hinder his flight. He fled back to Puerto Rico, and was sentenced in absentia by the US for his part in the Macheteros’ activities in 1992. He hid out successfully, occasionally releasing communiqués, recording statements, and giving interviews to the alternative press, for 15 years prior to his assassination, which took place, significantly, on the anniversary of the Grito de Lares–the “freedom cry” of Puerto Ricans for independence from Spain in 1868. (You can read an English account of the assassination here.)

It’s hard not to see Ojeda’s assassination as a deliberate slap in the face from the US authorities to Puerto Rico–and a dire warning the Puerto Rican independence movement, not all of which is as disposed toward armed combat as the Macheteros are. The message it sends is clear: You are under our thumb, and you’re there to stay, so don’t try any more funny business.

Little wonder, then that his widow is making the accusations noted above. They are undoubtedly true, but whether anything will ever be done about them remains to be seen.

In the meantime, nobody is holding their breath.

PS: Don’t miss my earlier entry on this case–in which Calle 13 pays angry tribute to Filiberto Ojeda Ríos.

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