… back in 1992, Ron and I interviewed a couple of Puerto Rican prisoners of war on CKLN radio in Toronto … both had been arrested in 1983 and charged with being members of the F.A.L.N. (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional / Armed Forces for National Liberation) … both were released from prison in 1999 … the interviews were then transcribed and published in Arm The Spirit # 13 … what follows is the introduction from ATS # 13 and the two interviews … there are 90+ issues of Libertad (Official Organ Of The National Committee To Free Puerto Rican Prisoners Of War) up on the ISSUU site, spanning 1979 to 1990 … all issues are in both english and spanish and contain incisive and insightful articles / commentary / updates from many of the POWs …
Puerto Rico Libre!
With this issue of Arm The Spirit we have focused, somewhat on the colonial situation of Puerto Rico, and the independence struggle being waged to free the island from U.S. imperialist control by the independentista movement and the armed clandestine organizations both inside Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. As July 25 is celebrated in Puerto Rico as Independence Day and around the world as an International Day in Solidarity with the Puerto Rican Independence Struggle and with the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, we are including in this issue interviews we have done with two Puerto Rican Prisoners of War, Edwin Cortes and Alberto Rodriguez; imprisoned as members of the F.A.L.N. (Armed Forces of National Liberation), as well as statements by two independentistas on trial for their involvement with Los Macheteros (The Machete-Wielders).
It is important to realize, as the world begins to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World, that in 1493 he also ‘discovered’ Puerto Rico; then known as Boriquen. In the name of Spain, Columbus laid claim to the island and re-named it San Juan Bautista. In 1511, after gold was discovered, it received yet another name: Puerto Rico, or Rich Port. Since the days of Columbus, resistance to colonialist aggression and control has been strong. From the fierce resistance of the Indigenous Arawaks and Tainos against the Spanish, to the F.A.L.N. and Los Macheteros, Puerto Ricans have always struggled and organized to regain their land and sovereignty.
It was in the 1960s, that groups such as the CAL (Comandos Armados de Liberacion) and MIRA (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria en Armas) began to engage in military actions such as the bombings of U.S. businesses that exploited Puerto Rican workers and hotels in San Juan which catered to the U.S. tourist trade. In the mid-1970’s, the F.A.L.N. emerged, calling for a strategy of uniting all the necessary forms of revolutionary struggle of the Puerto Rican people into an effort to overturn colonialism through a protracted people’s war for independence.
The F.A.L.N. has carried out its actions within the borders of the United States; as its intent has been to operate within the metropolitan areas of the enemy colonial power, where millions of Puerto Ricans reside, facing conditions of colonial violence, exploitation and poverty. F.A.L.N. actions were centered in New York City and Chicago and included attacks on banks, government offices, and police stations.
Likewise, the Macheteros emerged towards the end of the 1970’s in Puerto Rico, and in the words of one of its founders: “Los Macheteros is a clandestine organization formed in 1976 that uses armed struggle to oppose U.S. repression in Puerto Rico.” Its actions have included the 1981 bombing of nine National Guard planes which caused damage of $50 million, rocket attacks aimed at U.S. courthouses, and in 1986, in a joint action with two other armed clandestine organizations; F.A.R.P.( Armed Forces of Popular Resistance) and O.V.R.P. (Organization of Volunteers for the Puerto Rican Revolution), the bombing of military installations to protest the possible training of Nicaraguan contras in Puerto Rico and the beginning of commercial logging in the Puerto Rican National Rain Forest.
Although at the present time armed resistance is at a low ebb, there are 18 Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and political prisoners imprisoned for being part of these armed clandestine organizations and their support apparatuses. The United States government has repeatedly violated the human rights of these Puerto Rican political prisoners and POWs by subjecting them to brutal and tortuous prison conditions. These abuses include sexual and physical assaults, long periods in isolation cells and control units and the denial of medical care.
Dr. Luis Nieves-Falcon, coordinator of Ofensiva ’92; a campaign to free the political prisoners and Prisoners of War, has captured the spirit of the POW’s when he writes that they “are fueled by the fact that they are people who have faith in the valiant men and women who will never be anyone’s slaves. They believe in human valour and have faith in the right to freedom, in the recuperation of our homeland’s sovereignty and in the conscious men and women of Puerto Rico. The POW’s are fully aware of the empire’s size, but are convinced that Puerto Rico’s right to independence is much greater. The POW’s are also convinced that in the near future, we will all be together in a free homeland that, in spite of its current colonial status, will proclaim their
We at ATS join in the just demands for independence for Puerto Rico and freedom for all Puerto Rican political prisoners and Prisoners of War.
Interview With Alberto Rodriguez
In an article you wrote in 1988 entitled ‘The Right to Fight is Non-negotiable’ you stated that “The armed struggle in Puerto Rico is not simply a movement dedicated to violence. It is neither militaristic nor inclined towards violence.” What is your conception of armed struggle in Puerto Rico; what kind of movement do you see it as being?
I envision the struggle as being a political-military struggle in which the political aspect of the struggle would be more dominant. Particularly in the situation of Puerto Rico, for a lot of different historical and political reasons, I don’t see the classic models of people’s war as seen in predominantly agricultural places like China or Vietnam working. I think it has to be a political-military struggle in which the political aspects of the struggle would dominate. The politico-military aspect of the struggle would always be in support of and in solidarity with, and hopefully in certain situations even leading, the strictly political forces of the movement.
The political-military organizations that would lead the struggle would have to be clandestine in order that they can operate free and clear of the U.S. government that has, since the invasion of 1898, maintained a large intelligence and spying network in Puerto Rico that makes any attempt to organize publicly and openly suicidal. The history of Puerto Rico has shown that every time the independence movement has grown and it began to challenge U.S. imperialism, the independence movement has been smashed, with the leaders jailed, and many of them murdered.
We would have armed propaganda in which the armed struggle would educate and raise consciousness. The armed struggle would be used as a form of identifying and bringing to the struggle the most conscious element, the most dedicated and committed elements of the independence movement to the struggle. So I see the armed struggle as being an integral part of a public movement, of an independence movement that operates on many different levels; in the unions, in the universities, in the communities, it would be
an integral part of a political struggle.
You were arrested in 1983, allegedly as a member of the FALN. In many of the FALN communiques there is significant discussion of how elections in Puerto Rico are an attempt to force the Puerto Rican struggle to take place within the legal apparatus of imperialism. With this in mind could tell us about the Puerto Rican independence movement’s opposition to colonial elections, and could you tell us something about the Principle of Reatramiento on which this opposition is based?
The Puerto Rican independence movement has always had an electoral aspect to it. In the beginning, in the 1900’s, the independence movement as a whole, through different parties, participated in elections. In the 1930’s Don Pedros Campos, President of the Nationalist Party, ran in the elections of 1932 and saw firsthand how elections controlled by U.S. colonialism only led to divide the people. He saw a situation in which Puerto Ricans were fighting Puerto Ricans over some position which really did not challenge the status of Puerto Rico, which did not bring into question U.S. colonial rule over Puerto Rico. Basically Puerto Ricans were fighting Puerto Ricans over a position or an office. So Campos laid out the program, or the concept, of reatramiento, which basically mean ‘boycott’ and non-recognition of colonial life.
The concept of the electoral boycott is based on the fact that the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and for two years there was a military government. In 1900, the military government was turned into a civilian government which continued to be controlled by
Washington D.C. To this day the essential elements of this relationship have not changed. Even though now we have a Puerto Rican Governor and a Puerto Rican Senate Puerto Rican sovereignty continues to lie in the U.S. congress, and control of Puerto Rico; real economic and political control, lies in Washington D.C.
Reatramiento sees elections as a political device created by the U.S. to perpetuate their control. We in the independence movement who are opposed to U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico, should not participate in these elections because it is to negate the very things that we are struggling for. Now the independence movement as a whole is very divided on the question of elections, and I would say personally that my opinion is that this participation is based on a lack of vision, a lack of faith in revolution, a feeling that since nothing else is really going on, well, we’ll just go to elections every four years. I feel that for us to participate in elections is for us to every four years enter into a process in which we are going to lose. Everything is against us, the whole electoral system, and the whole educational and political system is set up to equate independence with terrorism and criminality, and we cannot win in that kind of environment.
So, really, it is the revolutionary independence movement that opposes elections and that sees elections as a fraud, a scam, and a conspiracy to keep Puerto Ricans arguing amongst themselves over issues and meaningless political positions while the true power stays in Washington. So the FALN and other political-military organizations, and several public organizations have attempted to organize fronts against electoral participation, and this also includes participation in plebiscites and referendums created by the U.S. whose purpose is not to decolonize the island, but to create a new situation or a new set up where they can continue their control.
Reatramiento, then, to me, continues, over sixty years later, to be a reality, to be something that I feel is a principle that can rally the Puerto Rican people together. It is a revolutionary program which can challenge people to break with U.S. imperialist control and begin to think about developing a political project which exists independent of the U.S., and only then will the Puerto Rican independence movement no longer be a movement of opposition but a national liberation struggle. I believe that one of our great
flaws and weaknesses has been our inability to develop a true national liberation struggle. Instead we for the most part act as a left opposition to U.S. government and U.S. imperialism. Puerto Rico is a colony, it is a classical colony. It is controlled by the U.S. through military and repressive means, and for us to have a movement in opposition which is simply a legal, loyal, political opposition, then we are not going to go anywhere in the long run.
I see reatramiento as being an important concept to raise revolutionary consciousness, to challenge U.S. imperialism, to create an independence project, to create a revolutionary strategy which the U.S. cannot control, that the U.S. cannot dictate the terms of. This reatramiento, along with a political-military struggle , like the one I outlined earlier, would be a winnable strategy.
The point has been made that the Puerto Rican struggle for independence and socialism is part of the revolution of the exploited and oppressed masses of Latin America against the oligarchies, capitalism, and imperialism. However, in some of the countries of Latin America we are seeing the discontinuation of the armed struggle for national liberation. Many of the guerrilla groups are entering into negotiation with the state and oligarchies or are surrendering their weapons and entering the electoral arena, as we have seen most recently with El Salvador and Columbia. How do you feel about this turn of events, and how does it affect the Puerto Rican struggle?
Without question, this is something that affects us very deeply. We have always seen ourselves as part of an overall Latin American strategy to defeat U.S. imperialism through the use of people’s war and armed struggle.
The question to be asked honestly is the question of whether armed struggle is a winnable strategy in Latin America. I continue to believe that it is, even though many guerrilla groups and armed organizations have begun to lose faith in their ability to win and feel that with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Socialist bloc that it is time to cut and run; to try to make the best deal possible. I do not feel that the fundamental conditions in Latin America have changed, in which organizations should enter into negotiations with the state, with U.S. imperialism and its puppet states, because the conditions are such that they cannot be resolved by some type of political accommodation with imperialism.
So I really don’t know where it is going to end up and I feel that it is different in each country. I think in El Salvador, because of the strength of the guerrilla movement that they will be in a much better situation to guarantee some democracy and some improvement in the lives of the masses, while in Columbia the guerrilla movements are much weaker and will be in a worse situation. You have in Peru the continuation of the armed struggle, and so I don’t see El Salvador or Columbia as being the only future.
How do you view the rapid changes which have been occurring in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and what effect do you feel these changes will have for the developing world and national liberation struggles?
As a Puerto Rican who has felt U.S. colonialism since the first beginnings of my political consciousness back in the early 70’s, I have identified with the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc because of their anti-colonial stand. As I developed politically and began to see the contradictions of the Soviet and Chinese system; the way communism and socialism had been practised, I still identified with it and supported it in the sense that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Now with the fall of the Soviet Union there is still an emotional side, a certain sadness while as I think about it and as I see what good could come of it I feel each day less and less sad about it. I think that a lot of people in the left found ourselves defending the Soviet Union even when the Soviet Union was not defendable. Some of the positions they took in Eritrea, some of the things they did in Afghanistan; how they attempted to hold together a system based on repression, how they attempted to develop a system in which they ended politics, they ended democracy, and in a sense they became everything they were ideologically opposed to.
Now that it is gone we no longer feel burdened by that. We no longer feel the need to defend that system. And I think that we can learn from it. I think that it gives us an opportunity to learn from that experiment and see that we cannot develop a system fundamentally based on repression. As pretty as we can make it sound, we cannot build a new world order based on repression; it must be based on democracy. So I think it is a time of challenge. I think it is a time for us to put away all these conceptions. Many of us in this generation who came out of the Vietnam war and the struggles of the 70’s developed a very romantic and idealistic obsession with the struggle. And now that the romanticism and idealism has been destroyed and we see the end of that experience, it challenges us, in a sense, to be much more radical than we were because instead of accepting ideas, we now have to be challenged to create our own ideas, to develop ideas that are not based, really, on lies.
The Puerto Rican independence movement has always faced severe repression from the U.S. government. The FBI in particular has been instrumental in pursuing the U.S. policy of attempting to crush the struggle for national liberation in Puerto Rico. Recently, revelations have come to light concerning the role of the FBI and an organization called ‘Defenders of Democracy’ in the assassination of two Puerto Rican patriots at Cerro Maravilla. Could you tell us what originally happened at Cerro Maravilla, and what was the FBI’s involvement?
We in the Puerto Rican independence movement have been saying for many years that the F.B.I. headed a death-squad type unit in Puerto Rico and that it has maintained control of the Puerto Rican police since the 1930’s, since the Puerto Rican police were mobilized along with the National Guard to smash and destroy the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
For years, many of our detractors attacked us and said we were paranoid and that this death-squad did not exist and there did not exist this F.B.I. controlled police force that was against the Puerto Rican independence movement. Now we have been vindicated because the whole Cerro Maravilla situation has shown that there has existed a death-squad in Puerto Rico made up of elements of the Puerto Rican police, the F.B.I., and other Federal government officials, particularly people in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marshall service.
In the Cerro Maravilla case, two young Puerto Rican independentistas were organized and mobilized into an organization which was a government created organization. They were put into a situation of carrying out armed attacks against the U.S. which had been totally set up and then they were lured to a communications tower where they were surrounded by the police and murdered in cold blood. The U.S. and Puerto Rican police attempted to cover it up, but they failed because certain witnesses, certain people in the Puerto Rican independence movement have not allowed it to go away, and have pushed and pushed it. And to this day new revelations come up about the intensity of the U.S. role in this whole affair and the fact that the F.B.I. was actually there.
Thus for us, the importance that the F.B.I. was there and that there exists a death-squad made up of U.S. government officials and the Puerto Rican police is that it shows that Puerto Rico is a colony despite the fact that we have a certain status known as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and that the U.S. refers to us as a democracy. This shows that Puerto Rico is no different than the rest of Latin America where you have governments that stay in power by force, that create extra-legal means to stay in power.
The Cerro Maravilla case has gone to the highest levels of government in Puerto Rico and it has gone to the highest levels of government in the U.S. Where it will end up is hard to say, because it is the government investigating itself. Elements of the Autonomist wing of Puerto Rican colonialism that are presently in power feel that they can gain something from investigating this conspiracy to kill the two comrades at Cerro Maravilla. At the time of the murders the government in power was the Statehooders. So they are attempting to use this as an opportunity to down the Statehooders and hopefully win the election at the end of this year. It is not clear how far they are willing to go, and the fact is they may end up cutting their own throats because they have been junior partners, for 5 decades, in maintaining U.S. control in Puerto Rico. If this investigation continues and it keeps on going to the very heart of the U.S. role in Puerto Rico many of their party members will be questioning their own policies and their own thoughts.
So it is hard to say how far they will go and I do not believe that the Puerto Rican independence movement is strong enough to force the government to continue the investigations. So the investigation could end at any moment and whatever has been discovered has been discovered and there will be nothing more to it. The U.S. government obviously has an interest in trying to stop it and they are doing everything possible to stop the investigation. But without question it has exposed to the masses of Puerto Rican people the fact that there is a death squad, that the government has no qualms about using violence against its own people to stay in power, and that the U.S. is the master of Puerto Rico without question, they are the ones who pull all the strings and whatever happens in Puerto Rico comes from Washington D.C..
So, for us it has been a vindication. It vindicated many of the things we have been saying for years and it has been good for us. We have been able to bring to us many new people, and its been a very positive thing. I don’t know how much more we can gain from it, but up to now it’s been very good for us.
Puerto Rican women have always played an important role in the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, but in your words, sexism runs rampant in the independence movement. Do you see the struggle against sexism as an integral part of the independence struggle?
The Puerto Rican independence movement, coming from a society which is patriarchal, has been a chauvinistic and sexist movement, without question. While we have examples of Puerto Rican women who have stood up and fought and died for Puerto Rican independence, for the most part women have been shut out. Women have forced themselves onto the scene and have forced men to recognize them and to accept them as equal partners in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. But it has not been because we have opened up the ranks and allowed them to enter the movement. It has been in spite of men, and not because of them.
Without question, if we are to be serious about developing a new society and a new way to thinking, then we can’t say we are going to change some aspect of ourselves and of our society and not other aspects. We have to be willing and able to open up to discussion and to the struggle all aspects of Puerto Rican society and the struggle for independence. I think the struggle against sexism has to be an integral part of the struggle of the Puerto
Rican people to develop a new way of thinking and a new society. In Puerto Rico you have a situation where the main cause of death among Puerto Rican women is domestic violence. We have a terrible situation of battered women and of incest and rape. This is aggravated by the deteriorating economic conditions in Puerto Rico and by a colonial ideology that condones and even encourages such violence against women. The Puerto Rican independence movement has not been immune from these things. Some have attempted to raise these issues and to raise consciousness, but we have a long way to go. Puerto Rican women lead a dangerous existence, their lives are in danger every day, going out in the streets at night is a threat, even living at home is a threat to them.
So I think the situation in Puerto Rico is like the situation in the U.S. and Europe and everywhere in the world where women are developing their own political thoughts, their own ideology to question patriarchy.
Several years ago, one of the organizations in the Puerto Rican independence movement, the MLN, held a congress, and a major part of that congress was dealing with sexism, the family, homosexuality and questions that for the most part the independence movement has ignored. Now I think the MLN has begun a process in which the whole independence movement is questioning its past with regards to the issues of homosexuality, sexism, and attitudes towards women, children and the family. A lot of very good things have come about. In the Puerto Rico today women are organizing their own organizations and their own projects and they have challenged men’s leadership in the independence movement. I think in the last five or six years some very good steps have been taken towards dealing with sexism in the independence movement, but I think we have a long way to go. And I think that this cannot be just a woman’s project, men have to take a role in it also. Women will lead this struggle, but men have to be willing to change and to open ourselves up to criticism and enter this process. I think it is challenging and threatening to us because for so long we ran the show and now to have women challenge us puts us in a predicament that for many men is very difficult to handle. But I
think if we are to grow as a movement for social change and not just as a narrow nationalist movement, then I think we have to open up to the struggle of women and the struggle against sexism, patriarchy and homophobia and all these questions that we have ignored too long. And we suffer because of that ignorance.
Any last words?
I definitely want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. I think that the Puerto Rican independence movement has for a long time suffered a curtain of silence. Many people think of Puerto Rico only as a wonderful place to vacation; an island with beautiful mountains and the sea, and they don’t really realize the fact that we have suffered colonialism for 500 years. And also, there are over 1.5 million Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. in conditions of an internal colony and that challenge U.S. imperialism in each and every day. I think that the left has to recognize that it doesn’t have to go half way around the world to fight colonialism; colonialism exists right next door and I think that the left in North America needs to look at the fact that there is colonialism right in their own backyard, and to rally around it and fight for its independence.
The last thing is, I think that the left in general has to realize that there are people in prison because of their principled stand against imperialism. And even if one disagrees with the tactics that they have used, or if they take a non-violent approach to their political struggle, nonetheless, these brothers and sisters who suffer long years of imprisonment are part of the very same struggle and should not be ignored.
Interview With Edwin Cortes
On June 29, 1983, you and three others were arrested in Chicago and accused of being members of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional), a revolutionary clandestine organization active in the United States which has assumed responsibility for
over 100 armed actions carried out in support of Puerto Rican independence. Could you tell us something of the history behind the FALN, within the context of the history of the armed struggle for Puerto Rican independence?
The FALN has been an natural extension of the Puerto Rican struggle for independence and socialism. The armed struggle was initiated September 23, 1868 in what is known as the Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares) occurred, led by Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances. This set a course in Puerto Rican history for armed struggle. Secret Societies and revolutionary activity continued when the United States militarily invaded Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898. The armed guerrillas declared the Republic of Ciales in August of 1898. The armed struggle continued developing in Puerto Rico in the 1930’s up until the 1950’s with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party; and with the experience of the Nationalist Party and the previous movements, the armed clandestine movement really began to function around 1967 with the development of the Commandos Armados de Liberacion and other organizations, some of which embraced the strategy of Prolonged People’s War. And in 1974, the FALN came about, attacking United States governmental, military, and corporate structures; perpetuators of colonialism in Puerto Rico. The FALN developed clandestine methods of organization in order to neutralize U.S. governmental repression and to further the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and socialism.
Are there at the present time any organizations carrying out armed actions in Puerto Rico?
The Ejercito Popular Boricua Macheteros led by Filberto Ojeda as well as the Fuerzas Armadas Don Pedro Albizu Campos have claimed credit for various actions and their have been many acts of sabotage, many which have no one has claimed credit for, in relation to worker’s strikes and other movements. Overall, the armed revolutionary activity in Puerto Rico is at a low ebb.
In your opening statement to the court in August of 1985 you stated that “In keeping with my principles, with the tradition of our heroic freedom fighters and in accordance with international law, the only law which has a right to try me, it is my obligation to declare myself a Prisoner of War.” Could you explain the reasoning behind the Prisoner of War position?
The POW position that we assumed was developed by Guillermo Morales in 1978 and in 1980 by Carmen Valentin, Alicia Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Lucy Rodriguez, Ricaerdo Jiminez, Carlos Torres, Haydee Beltran, Elizam Escobar, Adolfo Matos, and Dyclia Pagan as well as Oscar Lopez in 1981, and it was due to the intensification of the armed struggle in Puerto Rico and the United States as well as an ideological and political debate going on within the independence movement as to whether or not the armed struggle was even necessary, and questioning it vis-a-vis a tactic or a strategy. The POWs embraced the armed struggle within the strategy of a Prolonged People’s War.
We assumed the position in order to further the struggle for Puerto Rican independence because we felt that armed struggle was a necessary component of the independence movement, and was necessary at that time; and it is still essential today in order to combat U.S. plans to destroy the independence movement and annex our homeland. We also challenged the legality of the Treaty of Paris of 1898 which was signed between the U.S. and Spain. Spain gave Puerto Rico to the U.S. as a piece of property, which did not belong to Spain. Spain had already granted Puerto Rico its autonomy under the Charter of Autonomy of 1897. The United States invades Puerto Rico in July, 1898 and a “State of War” exists between the Puerto Rican people and the U.S. government. Regardless of the state of that war, it still continues today. And finally, our POW position is rooted in international law, particularly resolution 1514 which recognizes the right of colonial people to self- determination and independence, and other various resolutions of the UN which recognize armed struggle as a means to achieve independence and which confer a Prisoner of War status to those captured in colonial armed conflicts.
How then does the ‘Prisoner of War’ position contrast with the ‘political prisoner’ position?
Both positions complement each other. The only difference between a political prisoner and a prisoner of war is that a POW acknowledges his participation in the armed struggle, whereas a political prisoners usually has been arrested for some political crime, and not necessarily an armed action.
You were found guilty in 1985 of seditious conspiracy. What is seditious conspiracy and why is it an impossible crime for Puerto Ricans?
During our trial, Don Juan Antonio Corretjer, who was the national poet of Puerto Rico and was one of Puerto Rico’s greatest independentistas and socialist thinkers, attended our trial, and he developed the concept of sedition being the impossible crime. Unfortunately, Don Juan died in 1985 with full military honours and bestowed with the rank of Commander. Sedition is for us an impossible crime because, first of all, the U.S. accuses us of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government by force and violence in order to obtain the political independence of Puerto Rico. And the authority that we are challenging is an illegal and colonial authority, the U.S. has no lawful authority in Puerto Rico. Colonialism is a crime against humanity. We also challenged the U.S. military intervention in our homeland in 1898, and the illegality of the Treaty of Paris.
Also, for us sedition is a crime of thought; because for Puerto Rican independentistas, just advocating armed revolution, or support for armed organizations is enough for the U.S. government to charge them with sedition. Somewhere in the future, if the Puerto Rican struggle does reach a high level of struggle, it is my opinion that the U.S. will not hesitate to charge other independentistas with sedition. This was shown in 1937, with Don Pedro Albizu Campos, a Harvard educated lawyer, and leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, who was charged with sedition for just merely advocating Puerto Rican independence. He was never accused of carrying out any armed actions. During our trial, Jose Rodriguez, who took a political prisoner defense, also challenged sedition and it became obvious during the trial that he was accused of sedition for only merely
supporting Puerto Rican independence, and not for participating in any armed actions.
So, the U.S. government really does not need for people to be involved in armed acts to charge them with sedition. It’s merely a political statute that they use to incarcerate Puerto Ricans. Also, in 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court passed a decision that Puerto Rico belongs to, but is not a part of, the United States. And we used this decision to demonstrate that Puerto Rico is a Latin American country in the Caribbean and that it is fighting for its national independence.
Could you tell us about the campaign known as ‘Ofensiva 92’?
Ofensiva ’92 began in July 1991, and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. they are organizing local committees in different parts of the island, thus far they have organized about 30 local committees. In the United States, the National Committee to Free All Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners, in Philadelphia, Chicago, Hartford, New York, and other cities have been restructured to embrace the wide support we have received from different sectors. The campaign is aimed at 1992 because we will b commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the americas, and so it’s appropriate the for Puerto Ricans to intensify the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and the ex-carceration of its political prisoners and POWs. Also, the UN has declared the 1990’s as the decade for the elimination of colonialism, and this resolution gives further ammunition to our valiant cause.
I think Ofensiva 92 has the potential of organizing and mobilizing the Puerto Rican people around support for POWs and political prisoners, and that we can be a unifying force within the independence movement today. This campaign is similar to the campaign waged in the early 1970s for the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists who were in the United States prisons for over 25 years.
What can be done to support the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and the struggle to free the Prisoners of War and political prisoners?
I think a committee in support of Puerto Rican independence and POWs and political prisoners would be in order. I think such a committee could take up the work of educating people around the colonial case of Puerto Rico as well as why we have been imprisoned and mistreated. The committee can expose the hypocritical posture of the U.S. human rights policy; it goes around the world talking about human rights and freedom for political prisoners, while it negates its own human rights violations and denies the existence of political prisoners here in the U.S. The U.S. also alleges that Puerto Rico is its own internal affair and refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the United Nations. It is the responsibility of all peace loving and progressive peoples of the world to be involved in the struggle to free Puerto Rico. A committee in Canada would help to internationalize the colonial case of Puerto Rico.
How do you see this struggle to free the imprisoned fighters in relation to similar struggles around the world?
The last few years we have been able to make contact with various movements in support of freedom for political prisoners – the Irish struggle, the Palestinian struggle, the struggle of GRAPO and PCE(r) prisoners in Spain, and various other movements. And we are trying to set some kind of agenda where we could talk about the incarceration of political prisoners and prisoners of war and the repressive nature of the state. Through the work in support for political prisoners we have also been able to understand and support the struggles against imperialism, racism, zionism, etc.. We have very much in common with people who are fighting for national independence and social change throughout the world. Together we can make the 1990s the decade for the ex-carceration
of all political prisoners and prisoners of war.