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September 21, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-09-21

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OPINION

Page 4

Thursday, September 21, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Free

By the Puerto Rican
Solidarity Organization
It is not comfortable for U.S. citizens
to think of their country as a hostage-
taker and keeper of political prisoners,
any more than it is for citizens of the
Soviet Union or Iran. As Noam
Chomsky explains, talk of political
prisoners is not polite in middle-class
circles and is simply not allowed in the
national media. Still, we would hope
that the Ann Arbor community can rise
above such limits, to pause and reflect
on the undeniable fact that the govern-
ment of the United States of America
now holds many political prisoners.
Most of them are people of color.
One is Filiberto Ojeda, a Puerto
Rican political prisoner. Ojeda and 14
others, known as the Puerto
Rican/Hartford 15, were charged with
conspiring to steal $7 million from the
Wells Fargo Company in Hartford,
Connecticut, or of being associated
with the 1983 robbery. These charges
veil the real charge, that the defendants
are activists in the movement for an in-
dependent Puerto Rico.
Unlike the other 14, Ojeda was also
charged on eight separate counts asso-
ciated with what transpired during his
arrest in Puerto Rico in 1985. After his
arrest, Filiberto spent 32 months in
U.S. jails before being granted bail. In
the 213 year history of the United
States no one has ever been incarcer-
ated that long awaiting bail.
Unfortunately, a day after his release,
he was arrested again and charged with
attempted murder of Federal Bureau of

?uerto Ri
Investigation (FBI) agents, stemming
from the original arrest. On those
charges he was denied bail entirely,
bringing his time in U.S. jails to over
three years. Filiberto has never been
convicted of a crime.
Ojeda received the infamous knock
on the door in the early morning hours
of August 30, 1985. More than two
dozen FBI agents, decked out in mili-
tary fatigues, faces blackened, toting
automatic weapons and more con-
verged on Filiberto's house.'here are
two versions of what happened - one
by the FBI, one by Filiberto and his
neighbors.
The FBI claims that eight agents ar-
rived at Ojeda's house on that date to
arrest him in conjunction with the 1983
Wells Fargo robbery. After announcing
their presence and intent, they claim
that Filiberto opened fire, firing two
shots and wounding one agent.
Filiberto claims he was awakened by
the announcement of the FBI presence.
Realizing that U.S. agents have assas-
sinated Puerto Rican activists before,
his main thought was to awaken his
neighbors so that if he was murdered
there would at least be witnesses. He
responded to the agents by warning
them that he had a gun, to which they
responded by opening fire on his
apartment. He then fired two shots into
the air. One of the shots hit the roof,
dislodging a piece of cement which fell
and hit one of the FBI agents in the
eye. After it became clear that the gun-
shots had awakened many of his
neighbors who were now witnessing
the situation, Filiberto willingly sur-
rendered to the agents. As he was taken
away by the agents he yelled to his

ican

political

prisoners

0

neighbors "Remember that you saw me
alive when they took me away."
The jury of twelve Puerto Ricans
unanimously believed Ojeda rather than
the FBI. On September 27 of this year
he was acquitted of all charges associ-
ated with the events during his arrest.
During the trial, Ojeda, acting as his
own defense lawyer, noted many in-
consistencies in the FBI's version of
events. If they really wanted to arrest
him why did they not do it outside of
his apartment where they knew every
move in his daily schedule and knew
he was always unarmed? In fact they
knew he kept a gun in his apartment,
and their plan apparently was to attack
with large numbers of agents, hoping
to engineer a quick firefight in which
Filiberto would be killed "resisting ar-

routinely do in the United States when
dealing with independence activists.
The trial was thus effectively a test of
the efficiency of the its propaganda ap-
paratus, evaluating whether or not it
will work in Puerto Rico as well as it
has worked in the United States.
The jury of 12 Puerto Ricans simply
did not buy the FBI's story. The prej-
udice of U.S. courts with regard to
Puerto Rican defendants was not mir-
rored in Puerto Rico, and the jurors, by
no means all supporters of Puerto
Rican independence, were quick to
judge the case on its own merits. If the
Puerto Rican/Hartford 15 were to be
tried in Puerto Rico rather than the
United States, we suspect the FBI
would have little chance of gaining
convictions. That, of course, is why

'Ojeda received the infamous knock on the door in the
early morning hours of August 30, 1985. More than two
dozen FBI agents, decked out in military fatigues, faces
blackened, toting automatic weapons and more con-
verged on Filiberto's house.'

In all cases, whatever the charges
against them, they are in jail because
they support the independence of
Puerto Rico. Ever since the United
States invaded PuertohRico in 1898 the
Puerto Rican people have been resist-
ing the military occupation of their is-
land. And during all that time the U.S.
security forces, just like those in El
Salvador, have been busy trying to
break that resistance by whatever
means necessary. The result is scores
of Puerto Ricans in U.S. jails, their
only real crime the crime of Jefferson,
Paine, Franklin, and Washington --
wanting their country to be free.
As Puerto Ricans striving for justice
for ourselves and our people we ask
only one thing - that the government
of the United States obey the law. The
United Nations has said repeatedly that
the United States is in violation of in-
ternational law in its continued occupa-
tion of Puerto Rico. We believe that if
enough pressure can be placed on the
U.S. government it can be forced t
recognize and respect the tenets of the
international legal community in this
situation. We hope that is the case be-
cause, as the U.S. Revolution showed
many years ago, a people will fight
back violently if their peaceful strug-
gles for freedom are met with violence.
Anyone interested in the issues of
Puerto Rican political prisoners and the
struggle for a free Puerto Rico is in
vited to contact the Puerto Ricaf
Solidarity Organization. Our next
meeting will be tonight at 7:30 in the
Michigan Union (ask at the main desk
for room number).

rest." They did not count on Filiberto's
neighbors awakening so rapidly to
provide witnesses to the operation.
They were thus forced to take him into
custody rather than kill him.
The trial was one. of the biggest de-
feats of the FBI since the arrests. It
certainly underscores the reason why
the Puerto Rican/Hartford 15 were in-
dicted in Hartford and not in Puerto
Rico. The FBI went to a great deal of
trouble to portray Filiberto as a danger-
ous terrorist, an enemy of freedom,
and a threat to civil society, as they

the trial is in Hartford, Connecticut. So
much for the U.S. guarantee of being
judged by a jury of your peers.
Filiberto Ojeda is only one case in a
litany of human rights violations in the
treatment of Puerto Rican independence
activists by the FBI. Filiberto may be
free for now (he still faces charges as-
sociated with the Wells Fargo robbery,
although those may be thrown out of
court), but scores of Puerto Rican
political prisoners and prisoners of war
languish in U.S. jails yet today.

.. s paz.asxi .' .-- . ., .w ^, a,

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. C, No. 11 Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Plastic bullets kill

NEXT MONDAY human rights ac-
tivists and representatives from libera-
:tion movements in Ireland, Palestine
,and South Africa will hold a rally
urging a ban on the production and use
of plastic bullets.
Plastic bullets are lethal weapons
which are used against unarmed civil-
ians. Though governments claim that
these bullets represent "minimum and

reasonable force," in reality they maim
and kill people.
In the North of Ireland the occupying
army of Britain has a shoot to kill pol-
icy which mandates soldiers to shoot at
anyone who appears to be engaging in
suspicious of "pro-IRA" activity. This
policy enables soldiers to shoot indis-
criminately at any individual, or into
crowds with no fear of formal
reprisals.
A similar policy is in place in the oc-
cupied territories of Palestine, where,
on a daily basis, the Israeli army
"disperses" crowds by arbitrarily
shooting plastic and rubber bullets into
them. Though the crowds are always
unarmed, Israel still claims it is defend-
ing itself.
And in South Africa, where Blacks
are denied all civil rights and nearly all
human rights, plastic bullets are used
for "crowd control" by the racist
apartheid government.
The similarities between each of
these situations are undeniable. It is
clear that the armed force used by these
governments do not have any "real"
justification. Most fundamental is the
racist thinking which makes it criminal
to be an Irish Catholic in the North of
Ireland, a Palestinian in the West Bank
and Gaza or a Black in South Africa.
And in each circumstance it is a case of
the minority enforcing military rule
over the majority for its own economic
or imperialist gain.
The other most significant similarity
between the military rule imposed by
Britain. Israel and South Africa is the
extent to which the United States sup-
ports and/or supplies their armies.
Both the European Parliament and
the United Nations have condemned
their use, yet companies in the U.S.
still produce, sell and export plastic
bullets.
Though the U.S. is not the sole ex-
porter of plastic bullets it is responsible
for financing production and use of
plastic bullets by the British, Israeli and
South African armies. If the U.S. were

n opposition.
ty forces.
peace

A

Repressive policies instituted by the ARENA party have galvanized the Salvadoral
Families of the disappeared, imprisoned and assassinated (above) confront securi
new proposal for-

By Philip Cohen
Forced by the failure of its policies and
rising public sentiment against it, the
ARENA party of El Salvador agreed this
month to a first round of negotiations
with the Farabundo Marti National
Liberation Front (FMLN). ARENA en-
tered the negotiations attempting to walk a
tightrope between political forces from
both inside and outside country. Public
opposition to the 10-year-old war is in-
creasing, taking the form of wide-spreadl
opposition to the new government, and
the military has been frustrated in attempts
to suppress new offensives by the FMLN.
At the same time fascist military elements
insist that any negotiations are tantamount
to treason - a concession to the opposi-
tion.
ARENA essentially admitted its own
weakness by coming to the bargaining

uamle, but cai ie determined to stall the
talks, offering a slim proposal which only
outlined an indefinite series of two-day
talks.
The FMLN, on the other hand, is riding
a new crest of public support. The-new
government, which according to FMLN
representative Ramon Cardona - in Ann
Arbor this week - has "polarized society
even more," and has worked against itself
by "creating better conditions for a higher
level of unity. This has forced ARENA to
say 'Yes' to negotiations and dialogue."
Cardona offers as evidence of new popu-
lar opposition the turnout of 100,000 (the
largest march since 1980) at an
Independence Day rally on September 15,
which overwhelmed San Salvador and
forced the government to alter plans for its
own military parade.
Against this backdrop, the FMLN ap-
proached the talks in Mexico on

September 13 with an aggressive proposal
(outlined here).
The talks produced some promising re,
sults. After the first day the ARENA wa
embarrassed by public outcry at the
emptiness of its proposals, and retur ied
ready to hear more substantial issues.
By the end of the third day a joint
statement had been hammered out, iq
which both parties agreed to continue a di
alogue toward ending armed conflict, pro
moting democratization and reunifying
Salvadoran society.
The statement is vaguely worded an4
open-ended, but some other important
concessions were made, among them the
inclusion of church leaders as observers
and intermediaries and the agreement by
both not to desert the talks unilaterally.
Numerous abductions by the govern
ment have been reported in the last tw)0
weeks, even as ARENA posed as a good=
faith negotiator in Mexico, including the
capture by treasury police of five student
leaders, as well as the capture of a national
leader of a cooperative federation and three
union organizers. These incidents, and the
continuation of repressive economic and
agricultural policies by the government,
underscore the lack of commitment to rest
olution by the oligarchical powers - in
cluding the military and ARENA - and4
the need for a renewed, unified effort to
bring down' the oppressive system which
survives primarily on the immense finan-
cial and military support of the United
States.
The role of the United States in bring
ing some positive resolution to the current
talks (scheduled to resume on October 16
in Costa Rica), was continuously stressed
by FMLN representatives Gladys Sibria*
and Rmnn-ndn irna.. h .r- ..e

The FMLN proposal to achieve democratization, an end to
hostilities and a just and lasting peace in El Salvador.
Presented in Mexico City on September 13, 1989
1) A joint cease-fire to be initiated by November 15, based on the following
agreements:
" Initiation of a process to reform the judicial system.
" Measures to end all forms of repression, to be verified by the United Nations and
the Organization of American States.
- Initiation of a process to bring to justice the killers of Archbishop Romero and
others involved in death squads, including the suspension of military officers while they
are being investigated.
- The removal of legal obstacles to the second phase of the agrarian reform program
instituted under the previous government, and the suspension of economic measures
which increase the cost of living, especially basic goods.
- The submission of proposals for constitutional reform generated by the negotiations
to the legislative assembly.
" Rescheduling 1991 elections to accelerate the process of reform and democratization.
" Operational guarantees to enforce the cease-fire, without the division of territories.
2) Initial stens to incorporate the FMLN into the nation's nolitieal life:

I a <

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