Yankee Injustice and the Release of
11 Puerto Rican Political Prisoners

Revolutionary Worker #1023, September 26, 1999

Friday, September 10, eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners walked out of U.S. prisons in Indiana, California, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Illinois. They were Alejandrina Torres, Alberto Rodríguez, Edwin Cortez, Ricardo Jiménez, Luis Rosa, Elizam Escobar, Dylcia Pagán, Ida Luz Rodríguez, Alicia Rodríguez, Carmen Valentín and Adolfo Matos. The prisoners were greeted with celebrations, at the prison gates--in New York, in Chicago and in Puerto Rico itself.

These women and men have been unjustly imprisoned and brutally mistreated for many long years. The prisoners were accused of being members of clandestine armed revolutionary organizations that targeted symbols of U.S. domination in the 1970s and '80s--the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) and the Macheteros. Many of these prisoners were convicted of "seditious conspiracy"--which means that they were convicted of working together to rise up against the U.S. government and to free their country from U.S. military occupation, economic exploitation and cultural invasion.

In other words, these prisoners were not guilty of any crime at all--but were imprisoned because they dared to take up arms in the fight for liberation.

While the 11 prisoners were released under a recent clemency deal proposed by the Clinton White House, others remained behind--in the cellblocks of Yankee prisons. Oscar López Rivera, known as a leading figure within the FALN, rejected the clemency deal. The RW has not yet seen any statement from him explaining his decision.

Three other Puerto Rican independentistas--Carlos Alberto Torres, Antonio Camacho Negrón, and José Solís Jordán--were not offered this clemency deal by Clinton. Carlos Alberto Torres reportedly refused to renounce violence at a previous parole hearing. And Antonio Camacho refused to acknowledge the authority of U.S. parole officers during his release last year. José Solís was sentenced to over four years in prison last July.

Juan Segarra Palmer was offered the clemency deal and accepted it--but under the terms of the arrangement he must still serve another five years.

It is extremely unjust for any of these prisoners to face even one more day behind bars--and the struggle for their unconditional release continues.

The White House's Colonialist Offer

The Puerto Rican prisoners have endured long years of isolation and sensory deprivation, solitary confinement, threats, denial of medical services, and many different kinds of brutality. And, now for 11 of these prisoners, that phase of their imprisonment is over. At the same time, the conditions of their release are deeply marked by new outrages.

The Clinton White House openly acknowledged that these Puerto Rican prisoners had received unjustly long sentences. And yet the White House still refused to simply release these prisoners. Instead, the so-called "clemency offer" is riddled with cruel conditions and undisguised political demands.

First of all, each of the prisoners accepting the clemency offer was required to sign a one-page document renouncing violence --promising they would not, personally, possess a weapon. But more, they were required to renounce their political right to "advocacy of the use" of violence for any purpose, including ending the colonial status of Puerto Rico.

In addition, the federal government insisted that it would closely control the actions, statements and contacts of these released prisoners--in many cases for the rest of their lives. The Monday after their release, all were required to report to parole authorities--and hand over detailed written accounts of their activities and contacts. This too is a highly political matter--it is a demand that these prisoners publicly acknowledge the sovereignty of the U.S. federal government over themselves and Puerto Rico.

The details of their parole will now be set by the federal authorities. These prisoners live under the threat that any activity that is not approved by the authorities can send them back to prison--in some cases for life. Some released prisoners said they will now be accompanied by a friend everywhere, so that they have a witness to prevent frame-ups by government agents.

Paroled prisoners are specifically forbidden to associate with other "felons" without the prior permission of the authorities. These political activists have spent their lives in a movement where many people have been convicted for armed actions, civil disobedience, frame-ups, and draft resistance, so the parole conditions deliberately affect their ability to attend meetings of the independence movement. The restrictions have an outrageous personal side: Two sisters, Alicia Rodríguez and Ida Luz Rodríguez may now be forbidden to see each other. Luis Rosa had to request permission to meet his own brother, Felix, in Chicago after his release. Juan Segarra may be forbidden from seeing his wife when he gets out--since she too was once convicted of a political "felony."

It is a bitter irony that Puerto Rican independentistas may have had more freedom of speech and association inside prison than they will now have on the outside. After his release, Adolfo Matos said: "My jail now turns into one with invisible bars and my words are like those of a caged bird."

A Just Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism

The release of these prisoners has been accompanied by a huge media offensive of misinformation about the status of Puerto Rico and the activities of revolutionary forces. The released prisoners were constantly referred to as "terrorists" in headlines. Article after article claims that Puerto Rican people benefit from U.S. domination.

There are constant claims that U.S. colonial authorities have created a "democratic process" where Puerto Rican people can determine their own future. And it is said that these elections and plebiscites prove that dreams of independence have faded in the hearts of Puerto Rico's people. But these votes take place under the guns of the U.S. military. They take place under conditions where organized forces for Puerto Rican independence have been infiltrated, disrupted, imprisoned, murdered--and are now gagged by federal parole rules. And they take place after the economy of the island has been twisted to serve U.S. corporations.

Throughout its history, the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement has correctly exposed colonial elections on their island. There is no "democratic process" in Puerto Rico. There is a colonial dictatorship of the U.S. imperialists, and the elections staged in Puerto Rico are mechanisms for legitimizing U.S. domination of the island. The three "status options" the U.S. "offered" in their latest plebiscite--statehood, commonwealth or neocolonial "independence"--all represent a continuation of the U.S. domination of Puerto Rico.

The last year has seen an upsurge of struggle in Puerto Rico--the general strike against privatization and the exciting struggle against the U.S. Navy in Vieques. There is deep hatred among the people for the Americanization of their island, and the creeping imposition of English in their schools, public institutions, highways and communities.

U.S. Guns in Puerto Rico

Ultimately and fundamentally, U.S. control over Puerto Rico rests on military occupation. U.S. rule over Puerto Rico was first established by an armed invasion. Uprisings of the Puerto Rican people have been suppressed by guns and bombs. Puerto Rican fighters have been rounded up and imprisoned by the hundreds, sometimes by the thousands.

The beautiful coast and mountains of Puerto Rico have been carved up by bases-- into target zones for U.S. bombers and armadas, storehouses for U.S. weapons, listening posts for U.S. spies, and command centers for U.S. invasion fleets and airlifts. Just this year, U.S. bombs killed a Puerto Rican man, David Sanes Rodríguez, as Navy bombers used the island of Vieques to practice for their Yugoslavian airwar. Puerto Rico is not just occupied by force--it has been transformed into a launching pad for countless U.S. invasions of other countries.

What could be more hypocritical than the U.S. demand that Puerto Rican people renounce "the use, threatened use, or advocacy of the use" of violence? Have the U.S. imperialists ever renounced the use of violence against the people of Puerto Rico?

The road to the liberation of Puerto Rico has been a long and difficult one. Key problems of political and military strategy remain to be solved--in both theory and practice--by the revolutionaries and people of Puerto Rico.

Here within the borders of the U.S. it remains extremely important to support that liberation struggle, to fight for unconditional release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners--and to prepare to oppose future U.S. attacks on Puerto Rican liberation fighters outside prison walls.


"The Revolutionary Communist Party,USA has pledged itself to make every sacrifice to overthrow U.S. imperialism here in the belly of the beast--and to construct a revolutionary society on the mainland of North America. As part of that struggle, we strongly uphold the liberation of Puerto Rico and work to build support for that cause among the oppressed and progressive people of the U.S. itself."

RCP,USA statement on the 100th anniversary
of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico, July 1998

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