Feds Invade Homes of Independentistas and Trade-Unionists, Steal Documents, Brutally Assault Journalists
FBI Puerto Rico Raids:
FBI official pepper-sprays journalists during raid in San Juan, February 10. (Photo: AP)
FEBRUARY 13 – On Friday morning, February 10, a task force of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launched an operation invading apartments and offices in six different places in Puerto Rico. With a helicopter of the Department of Homeland Security hovering overhead, federal police in military uniforms, some wearing ski masks to hide their faces, brandished high-powered weapons as they yanked people out of their homes so that swarms of FBI agents could rifle through their files and cart off computers. This is a continuation of the assassination last September of Puerto Rican independence fighter Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, leader of the Ejército Popular Boricua (Los Macheteros), by an FBI death squad. Targeted this time around were several independentistas who have been active in protesting that act of colonial state terror. Among them are well-known trade-union activists including the sociology professor Liliana Laboy and Norberto Cintrón Fiallo, who organized Ojeda Ríos’ funeral.
Last Friday's raids were a naked act of state repression by the imperialists who for more than a century have subjugated the Caribbean island nation of Puerto Rico, which for many years was the largest remaining colony in the world. Today, the U.S. rulers are carrying out a brutal colonial occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as well. Their drive to terrorize the world (and the U.S. population) into submission in the name of a “war on terror” not ony affects independentista militants but the workers movement as a whole and the rights and liberties of all. As journalists were covering the raids in the capital, San Juan, an FBI official verbally abused them and sprayed pepper gas directly in the face of several photographers and TV cameramen. As the feds departed, youths yelling “abusers” pounded and kicked the vehicles and threw rocks at the retreating convoy.
When the FBI murdered Ojeda Ríos in cold blood, unleashing a hail of gunfire and then leaving him for almost 24 hours to bleed to death, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International denounced this act of state terrorism and called on the workers movement and all defenders of democratic rights to protest the crime. We noted that this was also a deliberate imperialist provocation, carried out on the anniversary of the 1868 Grito de Lares, when Puerto Ricans first took up arms fighting for independence from Spain. Ojeda Ríos was assassinated by the same imperialist butchers whose military guard dogs and CIA hit men torture and murder prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at the Guantánamo naval base stolen from Cuba, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The government in Washington who dispatched these professional assassins to Puerto Rico is the same one that abandoned more than 100,000 poor, black and working-class residents of New Orleans to die in the floods following Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. rulers are the real terrorists.
The recent FBI raids are a particular threat to the workers movement. They give a taste of what this government has in store for trade-unionists in Puerto Rico and around the U.S. Already in August 2004, a squad of federal cops raided the headquarters of the Independent Authentic Union (UIA), accusing it of planning protests at the San Juan Airport, which under the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act would now be labeled a “terrorist” act. The UIA was protesting attempts by the Puerto Rican government’s Water and Sewer Authority (AAA) to dismantle the union health-care fund. When the union went on strike over this attack, the feds struck again, on October 22. This time the FBI claimed it was investigating union “corruption,” and accused the UIA of planning “sabotage” of the island’s water supply. Federal agents cordoned off the union hall for 15 hours, held union officials hostage and confiscated boxes of documents.
The FBI has for decades engaged in frame-ups, sabotage and disruption of the Puerto Rican union movement. They are stepping up their repression today as labor struggles intensify, including by the powerful and militant electrical workers (UTIER) and teachers unions. The recent raids were described by the daily Primera Hora (11 February) as a “Preventive Strike.” We call on the entire workers movement to join in protesting this assault on fundamental rights.
The government assault was directed against Puerto Rican nationalists, who have been the target of FBI/police provocation, including the infamous Cerro Maravilla murders and the carpetas (police dossiers) which were kept on no less than 100,000 Puerto Ricans. We demand that all U.S. military, intelligence and other agencies get out of Puerto Rico, including the FBI, CIA, DEA and the rest of the colonial repressors. We call as well for all Puerto Rican independence fighters to be released from prison. The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International stand for unconditional and immediate independence for Puerto Rico. But while many independentistas seek to build a Puerto Rican state like the various other bourgeois mini-states in the Caribbean, as proletarian internationalists we fight for a voluntary socialist federation of the Caribbean, in conjunction with the struggle for workers revolution in the imperialist citadel. n
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