Friday, October 07, 2005

Puerto Rios: The Latest Assassination

Why is it still surprising to hear that the US appears to be employing assassination as a political tactic? The latest one, it seems, occurred in Puerto Rico on September 23rd -- a couple weeks ago -- on the exact day of the 147th anniversary of El Grito de Lares (the Puerto Rican 'cry for independence').

The leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement, Los Macheteros (The Cane Cutters), 72-year-old Filiberto Ojeda Rios, died in a shootout that occurred at a farmhouse in southwestern Puerto Rico as FBI agents were apparently attempting to interrogate him regarding his alleged involvement in a 1983 robbery in Connecticut where $7.2 million was stolen. (See, it's very simple. In some cases, e.g. Halliburton, one or more people can steal hundreds of million dollars out of personal greed and nobody will chase them for eternity, and in other cases, a "militant" independence leader will never live down accusations that he stole several million dollars to achieve national independence -- go figure!). Ojeda Rios had been in hiding since 1990.

A wound to his shoulder which could have been medically-treated, was unattended to as the FBI waited outside the farmhouse for 24 hours before going in to see why the shooting had stopped. It's hard to believe that the FBI's main objective was to capture this man alive to interrogate him about a robbery when they allowed him to die before the interrogation could even begin. Protesters in Puerto Rico, Cuba and in some cities in the U.S., including New York City, Cleveland and Philadelphia, demonstrated after the killing -- though little media attention was given to these occasions. Senator Hillary "Me Next!" Clinton had to cancel a planned trip to Puerto Rico as the "rancor and rage" of the Puerto Ricans was a security threat to her.

Since 1952 when Puerto Rico was established as a part of the US Commonwealth, Puerto Ricans have increasingly lost interest in maintaining that status. Filiberto Ojeda Rios's death will likely cause a renewed motivation in campaigns for Puerto Rican indepedence. As the New York City Puerto Rican publication El Diaro/La Prensa states in its editorial today, the "U.S. government...says it is fighting for democracy abroad but still maintains a colonial relationship with this island of 3.8 million U.S. citizens."