Monday, January 14, 2008


As Newsday reports the case of three young Puerto Rican activists and artists ordered to appear before a Brooklyn federal grand jury has stirred up protests around the country and provoked outrage among supporters of the movement to grant independence to the U.S. territory.

The FBI/NYPD Anti-Terrorism Task Force (Joint Terrorist Task Force) has been visiting Puerto Ricans and serving them with Grand Jury subpoenas. In one case they claimed to be investigating the “extremist group: The Welfare Poets”.

Last Thursday night, hundreds of pro-independence members of a score of organizations protested in front of US facilities in Puerto Rico to condemn the subpoenas sent to artist Tania Frontera, moviemaker Julio Pabon and social worker Christopher Torres, who are accused of having alleged links with the EPB-Macheteros.

"The true reason for persecution against the EPB-Macheteros and pro-independence fighters in general is that we are a force capable of educating and organizing the people," the group said.

"We don't know why this investigation is taking place," said Ana Lopez, a professor of Caribbean history at Hostos Community College in the Bronx who helped organize a rally in New York last Friday. "All we know is that its purpose is to harass and intimidate hard-working Puerto Rican people."

“They may just be rounding up people without any connection,” said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito about the Brooklyn grand jury. “We are concerned with these tactics of using grand jury intimidation and harassing” those who support or oppose movements that are legal and constitutionally protected, said Mark-Viverito. She said that she was unaware of any possible connection between these individuals and any insurgent groups.

The Latin America Solidarity Coalition, a grassroots U.S.-based association of Latin American groups, said that it “condemns the FBI harassment of Puerto Rican independence activists.”

“These FBI visits and the subsequent serving of these subpoenas are designed to put those who refuse to cooperate with this ‘fishing expedition’ in jail, and to intimidate the Puerto Rican community as a whole,” the coalition said in a statement.

On Friday 11 lawyers for the three Puerto Ricans with subpoenas to testify before the federal grand jury in New York that morning announced that the date had been postponed until sometime in February.
The Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros is a pro-independence group whose leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Puerto Rico in September 2005. Puerto Rico's Justice Department has tried ever since to obtain FBI records of the incident and the identities of the agents involved, but has been rebuffed and is suing the agency in federal court.

The following is from the
Brooklyn Eagle.

Protesters Rally Against Grand Jury Inquiry in Brooklyn

They yelled out in Spanish; they yelled out in English. Salsa music blared through speakers, and one man sounded a conch shell. The two women pictured above, calling themselves “Raging Grannies,” were among the 100 or so people who gathered outside of Brooklyn Federal Court in protest on Friday. “It is our right as colonial people to say no and fight back!” one of the organizers, who refused to give her name, screamed into the microphone. “Get in the picket line and say no to the grand jury!”

The protesters were there on a drizzly Friday morning to rally against the grand jury inquiry into three Puerto Ricans who are allegedly tied to the freedom movement in Puerto Rico. As reported in Friday’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle, it is unclear how connected the three individuals are, if at all, to the pro-independence movement, but that the FBI and Department of Justice appear to be investigating a rebel group called the Macheteros (“the Machete Wielders”), who were once responsible for the second biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. Two years ago, FBI agents killed the rebel group’s leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, in a shootout. “FBI out of Puerto Rico! USA out of Puerto Rico!” the crowd screamed in unison.

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