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Vol. 75/No. 21      May 30, 2011

FBI arrests advocate for
Puerto Rican independence
FBI agents arrested Puerto Rican independence fighter Norberto González Claudio May 10 in Cayey, Puerto Rico. His arrest is the latest demonstration that Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony whose sovereignty is violated daily.

The FBI claims González Claudio took part in the 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut, which U.S. officials say was carried out by Los Macheteros (the cane cutters), a pro-independence group. The FBI brands the group as a “clandestine domestic terrorist organization.” González Claudio was ordered extradited to Connecticut.

The same day as his arrest, the U.S. Parole Board refused again to free Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. López, one of the longest held political prisoners in the world, has been in jail on frame-up charges since 1981, accused of being a terrorist.

In 1985, 200 FBI agents raided the homes of independence supporters in Puerto Rico, arresting 15 of them on charges of conspiracy in the Wells Fargo case.

Norberto’s brother Avelino, 67, was arrested in February 2008 and charged with conspiracy in connection with the robbery. Avelino, who has Parkinson’s disease, agreed to a plea agreement and is currently serving a seven-year sentence.

“As long as they continue to advocate the independence of Puerto Rico by force they will always pose a danger,” Luis Fraticelli, who is in charge of FBI operations in Puerto Rico, told Associated Press.

The FBI has a long history of using violence, harassment, and intimidation against independence supporters. On Sept. 23, 2005, FBI cops surrounded the home of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a leader of the Macheteros, who was one of the 15 arrested in 1985. He jumped bail in 1990 and went into hiding. The cops shot Ojeda, seriously wounding him. They made sure he bled to death by refusing to let anyone approach the house until the next day.

“It was an execution squad, because the FBI never intended to arrest Ojeda Ríos, but to kill him,” said Antonio Camacho, one of the Hartford 15, none of whom are currently in jail.

Hearings by the Puerto Rico Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991-92 shed light on the FBI and U.S. government “antiterrorist” operations on the island. The hearings also exposed FBI complicity with the killing of two pro-independence youth, who were lured to the Cerro Maravilla mountaintop in 1978 by an undercover cop and agent provocateur.

U.S. capitalists benefit from Puerto Rico’s colonial status. A pharmaceutical industry website lauds Puerto Rico’s “unique value” and “added tax benefits” for U.S. corporations, and its “unusual combination of cash grants, financial incentives and credits,” as well as its “low labor costs.” Sixteen of the top 20 drugs sold in the United States are manufactured on the island.

Although Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking nation and less than a quarter of the population speak English fluently, U.S. courts on the island function in English.  
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