FBI murders Puerto Rican independence figure

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May 13, 2002

By Bill Van Auken
27 September 2005

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The fatal September 23 shooting of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios represents an act of state terror and cold-blooded murder by the US government. It is one more proof that in the name of a “global war on terrorism,” Washington has arrogated to itself the right to conduct political assassinations and act as judge, jury and executioner against opponents of US policies and interests.

Aged 72, Ojeda Rios was the leader of the Boricua Popular Army, also known as the Macheteros, a group that advocated independence for Puerto Rico. He was wanted on charges that he had participated in the planning of a 1983 Wells Fargo armored car robbery in Hartford, Connecticut, in which $7.1 million was taken. A fugitive for 15 years since fleeing house arrest in 1990, he was sentenced in absentia to 55 years in jail.

Ojeda Rios was alone with his wife in their home in the rural southwestern Puerto Rican municipality of Hormigueros, near the city of Mayagüez, when scores of FBI agents stormed his property, unleashing a rain of bullets. According to reports, at least 100 armed agents were involved, backed by helicopters and a squad of military sharpshooters brought to the island from Virginia.

The nationalist leader was struck by a single bullet from a sharpshooter’s high-powered rifle. While he suffered no wound to any vital organ, he was left to bleed to death on the floor of his home as FBI agents refused to allow Puerto Rican authorities and emergency medical teams anywhere near the house, maintaining a militarized perimeter for 24 hours.

Later, an FBI spokesman claimed that the agents who had surrounded the house and shot Ojeda Rios feared that the house could be wired with explosives and were waiting for reinforcements to fly in from the US.

Testimony from his wife and a neighbor, as well as the results of an autopsy, exposed as lies the FBI’s version of events. US authorities had claimed that federal agents had come to arrest Ojeda Rios, opening fire only after he had fired on them.

In a press conference Monday, however, the nationalist leader’s wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, testified, “On Friday, September 23, in the afternoon hours, our house was surrounded. Armed men penetrated our property and took our house by assault, hitting it in a brutal and terrible manner, firing with heavy weapons against the front wall of our residence.”

Hector Reyes, whose house is approximately 300 feet from that of Ojeda Rios, confirmed this account, saying that the US assault team began firing on the house as soon as the helicopters arrived on the scene. “The first shots were very powerful, not from a little revolver like they say he had,” said Reyes.

The killing sparked spontaneous demonstrations throughout the island and statements of condemnation by leaders of virtually every political tendency, from pro-independence to the supporters of the island’s status as a US “commonwealth” and those advocating US statehood.

Even the territory’s Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, whose Popular Democratic Party supports the island’s current colonial status, found himself compelled to declare his “deep indignation” and demand an explanation from the FBI for the killing of Ojeda. “As governor, I make an energetic demand to the federal authorities to end the silence that they have maintained in relation to these events,” he said.

Neither the governor nor the Puerto Rican police and local prosecutors were given any advance notice that the FBI was about to mount a military operation on the island. They first learned of the siege from news reports and received no official report from the FBI until nearly a full day later. An FBI spokesman claimed that the silence owed to the fact that the operation was “developing” and the agency feared endangering its agents.

The head of the Catholic Church in Puerto Rico, Monsignor Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, also condemned the killing, warning that it would “continue the cycle of violence.”

“They are operating as if they were in hostile territory, like Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Radio Isla political commentator Ignacio Rivera. “It has political consequences,” added Rivera, a supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico. “They achieved their military objective, but the political side was absurd.”

The half-hearted protests from the island’s establishment were a timid reflection of the popular outrage the killing has provoked throughout Puerto Rico.

There were demands on the island for the declaration of a day of national mourning for Ojeda. The University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, the island’s largest campus with 23,000 students, announced that students would be excused from classes and university employees given the day off to attend the nationalist leader’s funeral Tuesday.

In a press release, the university’s president, Gladys Escalona de Motta, stated, “I call on the university community, in an exercise of its free expression, to set a high example in these moments when the nation demands clarity.” She added, “Puerto Rico needs to take stock of its convictions to confront the feelings that have overcome the country.”

The FBI chose as the day to carry out the assassination the 137th anniversary of the “Grito de Lares,” the first revolt for Puerto Rican independence from Spain. The day is celebrated each year as a commemoration of the Puerto Rican national struggle against colonialism.

It appears likely that the day was chosen based on the belief that Ojeda Rios would more likely be alone, as his sympathizers and supporters would be marking the day with public meetings and demonstrations. The Puerto Rican nationalist leader recorded messages that were read out in Lares every year. Ironically, his last message was broadcast even as federal agents were moving in to kill him.

Many, however, saw the choice of the day as a political statement by Washington of impunity and contempt for the sentiments of the Puerto Rican people.

An autopsy performed at the San Juan Institute of Forensic Sciences confirmed the sadistic character of the FBI’s assassination of Ojeda Rios. It showed that he suffered a single bullet wound entering beneath his collarbone and exiting his back.

“He did not die instantaneously,” said Doctor Hector Pesquera, who participated in the autopsy. “What I saw as a doctor was that they let him bleed to death.... In my opinion, there was enough time, a considerable time in which he was wounded and he did not receive the aid that could have saved his life.”

Puerto Rico’s Justice Secretary, Roberto Sanchez Ramos, concurred with this assessment, stating, “The information we have is that if Mr. Ojeda had received immediate medical attention after being shot, he would have survived.”

Ojeda Rios had been the subject of a similar FBI raid involving helicopters and scores of agents in 1985, when he was arrested in connection with the Wells Fargo robbery. He was subsequently jailed and tried for attempted murder for shooting and wounding one of the FBI agents during the arrest. A federal jury in San Juan, however, found him not guilty, its members accepting his argument that he had acted in self-defense against the government’s aggression.

The FBI and other US authorities never forgave nor forgot this humiliation. Now they have taken advantage of changed political conditions in the US—characterized by the “global war on terrorism” and the USA Patriot Act—to murder him. Clearly, if the agency had wanted to arrest a 72-year-old man, accompanied only by his wife, they could have taken him alive.

The assassination of Ojeda is a case of Washington deploying a death squad on what it claims as its own territory. This brutal killing serves as a warning of the methods the US government is prepared to use to suppress political opposition within the US itself.
Apr 25, 2002

They shot and killed a guy who was wanted for stealing money.

Re-inforces the notion that this country values money/property more than life itself.
May 13, 2002
Puerto Rico sues FBI for stonewalling probe of independentista’s murder
By Bill Van Auken
30 March 2006

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The government of Puerto Rico went to federal court last week, accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Justice Department of obstructing justice by stonewalling a local investigation of the FBI’s killing of a leading figure in the island’s independence movement during a raid last September.

An unprecedented legal challenge to the dominance that the US has exerted over its Caribbean colony for over a century, the court action reflects growing anger within the Puerto Rican population as a whole over the strong-arm tactics exercised by Washington, employing the methods of the “war on terror” against its nationalist opponents on the island.

The case stems from the September 23, 2005 raid carried out by the FBI against the home of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, founder of the militant independence Macheteros group in the southwestern municipality of Hormigueros.

At least 100 agents backed by helicopters and military sharpshooters surrounded the home where Ojeda, 72, and his wife were living. Ojeda, convicted in absentia of having participated in the planning of a $7.3 million armored car robbery in Connecticut in 1983, was a well-known political figure who regularly addressed pro-independence meetings and rallies by means of recorded messages.

After wounding him in a shootout, the FBI cordoned off the area surrounding the house, refusing to allow in emergency medical personnel, attorneys and even the Puerto Rican police. He was left to slowly bleed to death on the floor of his home over the course of many hours.

Outrage over the killing was heightened by the FBI’s decision to launch the raid, dubbed “Operation Order,” on the 137th anniversary of the “Grito de Lares,” which marked the beginning of the struggle for independence from Spanish rule and which is commemorated each year as a milestone in the struggle against colonialism.

The methods used in the raid strongly suggested that the FBI’s aim was to carry out an extra-judicial execution.

The case filed by the Puerto Rican Department of Justice charges US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other officials with an “unjustified, arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional denial of the demands to reveal information that is materially necessary to complete the local criminal investigation into the violent death of Mr. Filiberto Ojeda Rios.”

In a press conference announcing the suit, filed exactly six months after the FBI killing in Hormigueros, Puerto Rican Justice Secretary Roberto Sanchez Ramos declared, “Faced with the repeated and inexplicable refusal of the FBI to cooperate it was necessary to bring these charges in seeking to have the federal court oblige the FBI to carry out its legal duty to cooperate with the Justice Department of the ELA [Estado Libre Asociado—Free Associated State, the formal title given to Puerto Rico’s colonial status].”

The FBI has denied requests by the Puerto Rican justice officials to interview agents involved in the raid and has refused even to identify them. It has also stonewalled the authorities in San Juan over their request for documents related to the raid and its planning.

In a related case, the FBI has also refused to make available or even identify its agents who were involved in a violent and unprovoked attack on reporters and bystanders during a raid on the home of a Puerto Rican independence activist in Rio Piedras, one of several carried out on February 10. That incident, which was videotaped and broadcast on local television, saw armed paramilitary agents shoving and kicking members of the local news media, spraying them with pepper gas and beating some of them after they had been forced to the ground.

While the FBI claimed that the raids were initiated to thwart a “domestic terrorist attack,” no evidence of such an attack was forthcoming and none of the targets of the raids were arrested. The Puerto Rican government said it was aware of no such threat.

The Puerto Rican justice department issued the local federal prosecutor and FBI chief with subpoenas for information in this case, prompting federal authorities to go to court demanding that the subpoenas be thrown out.

The case filed by the Puerto Rican government is based on the premise that it has the authority to conduct its own criminal investigation into the actions of federal authorities and that the federal government is obliged to cooperate.

Federal authorities, however, have treated the demands with contempt. A spokeswoman for the local US attorney told the San Juan daily El Nuevo Dia, “We don’t have time to listen to [Sanchez Ramos’s] press conference because we are working actively to combat crime in Puerto Rico.”

The reaction reflects the reality of Puerto Rico’s colonial status as well as the general conviction of the Bush administration that it can act with impunity in carrying out police-state measures. The US government has carried out political repression, harassment and imprisonment of independence supporters in Puerto Rico for many decades, and now feels emboldened to conduct even more aggressive actions in the name of the war on terror.

To be sure, the challenge of the Puerto Rican government amounts to a rebellion on its knees. This was made clear Monday with the appearance of the island’s representative in Washington before a hearing convened by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee into the controversy over the FBI’s actions.

The representative read out a statement from Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila. “We have been and continue to be, willing partners of any federal agency in pursuing the war against terrorism and protecting the safety of our citizens.” Acevedo Vila said in the statement.” It must be clearly stated that in no way does the Commonwealth [of Puerto Rico] wish to impinge on any FBI investigation related to domestic terrorist activity nor to infringe on the FBI’s ability to do its job.”

The Acevedo Vila administration’s concern over the FBI’s police-state tactics is that they are throwing into sharp relief the real colonial status of Puerto Rico and the fundamental impotence of the commonwealth government. A member of the Partido Popular Democrático—Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which favors continuing Puerto Rico’s present status, Acevedo Vila’s concerns have been heightened by apparent moves in Washington to stage another referendum on the island’s political future.

Last December, a White House task force initiated by the Clinton administration and continued under Bush proposed a two-stage vote, with the first round offering a choice between maintaining the current commonwealth, or moving to a new permanent status. If the latter choice is supported by a majority, a second round would be held to choose between independence and becoming the 51st US state.

The proposal, which implicitly recognizes the current status as an illegal colonial relationship, also calls for holding periodic votes in the event that no permanent status is chosen.

The PPD has charged that this arrangement implicitly favors statehood and has sought to enlist US Congressional Democrats to push for an alternative plan that would call a “constitutional convention” in Puerto Rico to decide the nature of the referendum

Supporters of Puerto Rican independence, meanwhile, have charged that the FBI repression is directed at suppressing their movement in advance of any such referendum.

Under the current commonwealth arrangement, Puerto Rico’s nearly 4 million people are denied many of the political rights and benefits of US citizenship. While serving in the US military—and suffering disproportionate casualties, with at least 50 Puerto Ricans having been killed in Iraq—they are denied the right to vote for president and have no representation in the US Congress.

With almost no notice in the US media, the US Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal seeking to grant Puerto Ricans the right to vote in presidential elections. The decision was handed down without comment.

In addition, while a narrow layer constituting the local financial and business elite has profited off of the commonwealth arrangement, the bulk of the island’s population lives in poverty, with income levels less than a third of the US average. Annual per capita income on the island currently stands at $12,000, half that of Mississippi, the poorest US state.

These conditions have pushed many to leave the island for the US, where the population claiming Puerto Rican background has grown steadily, reaching some 3.2 million according to recent census data.

The FBI repression has struck a deep chord within the Puerto Rican population, leading to major protests and widespread expressions of outrage. Throughout the island political slogans have been painted along the roadside declaring “No to the FBI murders, no to the colony” and “Wanted, for murder, the FBI.”

During the recent World Baseball Classic in San Juan, demonstrators lined the road to the stadium for a half a mile carrying signs denouncing the FBI repression and many wearing T-shirts bearing the face of the assassinated Ojeda Rios.

Anger over the killing and the raids is fed by mounting discontent over the social crisis in Puerto Rico, characterized by a continuing decline in manufacturing jobs, an uninterrupted attack on the large state sector and growing social polarization.

None of the choices proffered in the proposed referendum offer a solution to this crisis. Even if the majority were to vote for statehood, it is highly unlikely that the US Congress, which would have to amend the constitution to annex the island as a state, would act on such a mandate, given opposition within the ruling establishment to the increased expenditures such a change would entail as well as right-wing hostility to incorporating a Spanish-speaking territory.

Despite broad sympathy for the independence movement based on hostility to colonial subjugation, there is considerable reluctance to embark upon the project of forging an independent Puerto Rican nation, both because of the dispersal of much of the population to the US and because of the failure of other mini-states in the Caribbean to achieve any genuine independent development from imperialism.

The only way forward in putting an end to political repression and social inequality on the island lies in the social struggle of Puerto Rican working people in alliance with workers throughout Latin America and in the US itself. This combined struggle must be armed with a socialist and internationalist perspective independent of all of the competing bourgeois factions and based on the fight for the United Socialist States of the Americas.
Mar 18, 2003
U.S. Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Immediate Release San Juan, Puerto Rico
September 24, 2005


Luis S. Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge, San Juan Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is providing the following information regarding the attempted capture of Filiberto Ojeda-Rios (Ojeda-Rios):

On August 30, 1985, a federal grand jury indicted Ojeda-Rios, the proclaimed leader of the "Ejercito Popular Boricua-Macheteros." Ojeda-Rios and several other members of "Los Macheteros" were indicted for robbery and transportation of stolen money stemming from the September 12, 1983 robbery of approximately $7 million from Wells Fargo Armored Services Corporation, in West Hartford, Connecticut.

While free on bond awaiting trial on these original charges, Ojeda-Rios fled and became a fugitive from justice. In his absence, Ojeda-Rios was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

On September 25, 1990, an arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court of Connecticut charging Ojeda-Rios with having violated Title 18, United States Code (USC), Section 3148 (Bond Default).

On September 20, 2005, the FBI developed information regarding the whereabouts of Ojeda-Rios. On that same day, the FBI began conducting surveillance and a tactical operation in the Hormigueros area of Puerto Rico in an effort to confirm the exact whereabouts of Ojeda-Rios. Subsequently, it was determined that Ojeda-Rios was present at a Hormigueros residence/farm house.

On September 23, 2005, FBI agents were conducting surveillance of the Hormigueros farm house when it was determined that their presence had been detected. Because the operation potentially had been compromised, the FBI agents decided to go ahead and execute the warrant for the arrest of Ojeda-Rios. As the FBI agents approached the front of the farm house at approximately 4:28 p.m., Ojeda-Rios opened the front door to the residence and opened fire on the FBI agents. As a result, one FBI agent was shot and severely wounded. Two other FBI agents were shot, although they were not wounded because of their protective equipment.

In response to the gunfire from Ojeda-Rios, the FBI returned fire and established a defensive perimeter in order to contain the environment.

At three separate points in time, gunfire was fired at the FBI agents from the direction of the residence. Because of the ongoing gunfire, FBI decided not to enter the residence. The FBI also was aware that Ojeda-Rios and Los Macheteros both have a history of possessing explosives. For safety reasons, the FBI then requested additional agents, police dogs, and specialized equipment, as well as an FBI tactical team based in the United States.

At one point in the encounter, Ojeda-Rios' wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, safely exited the residence. She was not injured by gunfire at any point in time. Although she was initially detained, she has been released from federal custody.

On September 24, 2005, an FBI tactical team from the United States entered the residence and discovered that Ojeda-Rios was deceased. So far, one weapon has been discovered inside of the residence. The investigation is on-going.
Mar 18, 2003
2-0-Sixx said:
That article is from the U.S. Department of Justice? hehe, kind of like asking the Wolf how many hens he ate.
It could be looked at in different ways, all depending on where you stand. In any case it is another side of the story, maybe the truth.

EDJ said:
If what was said in the article that I posted is true, then why not? If I was a part of that FBI operation and was fired on when I approached the house, I would fire back, wouldn't you?


Sicc OG
May 3, 2002
Mar 18, 2003
He is a man capable of firing a weapon, even at 70. At his old age, he still faces 55 years in prison, meaning he will die there. He has the history. Yes I believe he very well could have fired shots.