ProLIBERTAD's goal is the unconditional freedom of all the Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war. The work group is composed of individuals and organizations who work together on a broad and unitary basis, accepting differences of ideological or political position, but sharing the responsibility to support these Puerto Ricans who have been imprisoned for their political activities in the cause of Puerto Rico's independence and self-determination.
It is our aim to develop an educational campaign sponsoring activities, conferences, publications, and use the press, radio and television to inform the public about who the prisoners are, the circumstances of their imprisonment, and the reasons why a person, whatever his or her political beliefs, should demand their amnesty.
We are aware of the work this entails and see the need to collaborate and coordinate as much as possible with other organizations and people working for the unconditional freedom of all the Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war, as well with groups working for the freedom of African-American, Native American, Chicano and White political prisoners in the United States.
They are workers and professionals, students and teachers, community organizers, artists, mothers and fathers of families. And they are fighters for Puerto Rico's independence and social justice. These men and women found Puerto Rico's colonial reality intolerable and unacceptable. This situation led them to join the Puerto Rican independence movement and to confront the United States government directly. The majority of the political prisoners have spent more than a decade in federal prisons for their political activities.
During the 1970's and the beginning of the 80's, the prisoners were involved in community, union, student and political struggles in Puerto Rico and Elizam Escobar in the United States.They fought for the people's right to high quality, free education.They worked to create community institutions such as alternative education programs, child-care centers, health centers, housing cooperatives, recreational facilities and political organizations.They participated actively in churches, student groups, unions, professional associations, committees against repression, campaigns against youth violence and drugs. In summary they challenged the U.S. political system in many ways.
Throughout their lives they suffered the Puerto Rican colonial reality and the consequences of their political and community involvement. They were fired from their jobs, kicked out of schools and universities, denied scholarships, threatened, spied on, attacked by the police and the FBI. And when they rose up and fought against these injustices they were branded as terrorists and placed in some of the worst prisons in the U.S.
Puerto Rico has been a colony for 500 years, first of Spain and then of the United States. In 1898, at the conclusion of what is called the Spanish-American War, Spain was forced to cede the island nation to the United States pursuant to a treaty between Spain, France and the United States. No one consulted the people of Puerto Rico, in violation of a Charter of Autonomy signed by Spain and Puerto Rico which provided that the island's status could not be altered without consulting the Puerto Rican people. The U.S. military declared martial law, installed a U.S. governor, and began a program to alter and destroy the fiber of Puerto Rico. Over the years, the U.S. destroyed Puerto Rico's agrarian economy; devalued its money; imposed citizenship on its people to facilitate drafting its men into the U.S. army to fight the U.S.'s wars; imposed the teaching of the English language and U.S. history on its students; polluted its air, land, and water; sterilized its women; and installed 21 U.S. military bases on some of the best land. This would sound outrageous and unbelievable, except that this is the very same U.S. government that exposed unsuspecting citizens to radiation, as recent reports have disclosed.
Puerto Rico's colonial reality cannot be overlooked. George Bush admitted during his presidency that Puerto Rico's people had never been consulted on their status. Even Pedro Rossello, the colonial governor, called attention to Puerto Rico's colonial status in testimony before the United Nations in 1993.
As with any people of one nation dominated by another, there have always been Puerto Ricans who resisted the U.S. government's control of their nation's sovereignty. Their resistance, whether the mere advocacy of independence or the taking up arms against the colonizer, has been censored and criminalized, punished throughout the years by harassment, surveillance, imprisonment, and even summary execution.The examples are numerous. Some recent examples include: in 1979 two pro-independence youth were assassinated at Cerro Maravilla by the police after an undercover agent set up a trap and the Puerto Rican government participated in the cover-up that ensued; in 1987 it was discovered that the Puerto Rican police in collaboration with repressive U.S. agencies had maintained a list of so called "subversives" along with over 135,000 files on Puerto Rican citizens for strictly political reasons in clear violation of the Puerto Rican Constitution; in September 1994 an ex-member of the intelligence division of the Puerto Rican Police was arrested and accused of (along with other members of his division) kidnapping, torturing, and the assassinating the labor leader, Juan Rafael Caballero, in 1977.
International law denounces colonialism as a crime and recognizes a colonized people's right to end colonialism by any means at their disposal. The United Nations recognizes that these laws apply to the case of Puerto Rico. For many years now, the United Nations' Decolonization Committee has approved resolutions recognizing the inalienable right of Puerto Rico's people to independence and self-determination.
The actions of the Puerto Rican political prisoners are comparable to those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Washington and Jefferson denounced the tyranny of British control over their colonies. They fought for the principle of democracy, and gained independence. Similarly, the U.S. government recognized that Nelson Mandela's imprisonment by the South African apartheid government was unjust. Mandela was jailed for 27 years on charges of attempting to overthrow the apartheid government through violent means. Like Washington, Jefferson and Mandela before them, the Puerto Rican political prisoners are conscientious activists for freedom and justice, not criminals.
In a series of arrests carried out between 1980 and 1985 around 30 people were accused of acting or conspiring to overthrow the authority of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico through force, in other words acting in favor of Puerto Rico's independence and self-determination. At the beginning of the 1980's fourteen people accused of being members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN, its acronym in Spanish) were arrested. At the time of their arrest they declared themselves to be combatants in an anti- colonial war to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. domination and invoked prisoner of war status. They argued that the U.S. courts and its political subdivisions did not have jurisdiction to try them as criminals and petitioned for their cases to be handed over to an international, impartial court that would determine their status. The U.S. government did not recognize their request. Today these individuals are serving sentences of 35 to 90 years.
On August 30, 1985, hundreds of FBI agents descended on Puerto Rico and searched the houses and offices of independence supporters. Thirteen people were arrested that day and three others later on. These people were immediately removed from Puerto Rico in military transport and moved to the United States where they were held in preventative detention, some for as long as three years, without bail being set. They were accused of conspiring to rob $7.5 million from Wells Fargo, an action for which the clandestine group "Los Macheteros" had taken responsibility. The charges included transporting the money outside the United States and using the money to buy and distribute toys to poor Puerto Rican children. Of the accused, one was found innocent and the government dropped charges against another one. The rest of the accused were sentenced to between 5 to 55 years. Seven of them have already completed their sentences or are about to complete them.
The sentences received by these Puerto Rican patriots are excessive and punitive. Their goal is to punish political activity, militancy, and affiliation. Ten of the fourteen arrested between 1980 and 1983 were sentenced to serve terms of between 55 and 90 years. The average sentence among this group is 71.6 years: 70.8 years for the men and 72.8 years for the women. These sentences are 19 times longer than the average sentence given out during the year that they were sentenced. The majority are serving the equivalent of a life sentence. Of those that were arrested as a result of the Wells Fargo case, two were sentenced to more than 50 years in prison.
Common prisoners, those who commit criminal offenses, receive sentences that are much shorter. For example, statistics from the federal court system show that between 1966 and 1985 the average sentence for all those people found guilty of murder was 22.7 years; of rape, 12.5 years; of violation of arms laws, 12 years. Only 12.8% of all federal prisoners have sentences of more than 20 years. (1) Also the statistics show that those people with previous criminal records receive longer sentences. None of the Puerto Rican patriots in prison had a prior criminal record at the time of their arrest.
In reality, the longest time served by any prisoners in federal custody is for kidnapping: 5.3 years. (2) A study shows that those persons sentenced by state courts for serious violent crimes served between 2.5 and 4 years. Fourteen of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners have already served between 11 and 15 years in prison. The political nature of these sentences is made evident by comparing them to the preferential treatment given to people linked to right-wing, anti-communist, or anti-abortion groups accused of violent crimes. For example in 1976 Orlando Letelier, a leader in the movement against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and his assistant, were assassinated by a bomb that was placed in Letelier's car which was parked in front of his residence in Washington, D.C. The agent of the Chilean secret police who admitted to having placed the bomb was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he served 5 years and two months. A major in the Chilean army received a sentence of 7 years for his role in the assassination and a Cuban exile who admitted his role in the plot received a 12 year sentence.
A Ku Klux Klan Wizard, who was captured in a boat with an arsenal of arms and explosives while attempting to invade a Caribbean island with the goal of establishing a white supremacist state received a three year sentence and was freed on parole after two years. (3) Another Klan leader received a sentence of three years for possession of an arsenal and for conspiracy. This same man was later sentenced to three more years in prison for attempted murder and racial harassment after shooting at two black men. (4)
Two women anti-abortion activists sentenced for conspiring in a series of Florida bombings including a doctor's office and a women's clinic, were put on probation and received a small fine. Their male co-conspirators received ten years in prison and a fine for three of the explosions, and were not tried for the fourth explosion. (5) Michael Donald Bray who was found guilty of bombing ten clinics was sentenced to ten years and was set free after serving 3.7 years. (6)
During their imprisonment, the Puerto Rican political prisoners have been the objects of cruel treatment and degrading and inhumane conditions, because of their political beliefs. This is direct violation of international norms which prohibit discriminatory treatment of prisoners by prison personnel based on their political beliefs or opinions. [United Nations' Minimum Uniform Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (UNSMRTP), Rule A1 6 (1)]
Federal regualtions stipulate that prisoners should be put in prisons as close as possible to their homes and families. Nevertheless the Puerto Rican political prisoners have been kept far from their families and communities in the United States and/or Puerto Rico. For example, all those arrested on August 30, 1995 in Puerto Rico have had to serve their sentences in the United States despite the existence of a federal prison in Puerto Rico. Adolfo Matos is assigned to a prison in Southern California even though there is a prison very close to where his family lives in New York. Elizam Escobar has requested a transfer to a prison near to New York to be closer to his son who lives in New York City. Although hundreds of prisoners have been assigned to prisons in the New York area, Elizam has been denied a transfer on the grounds of overcrowding. Further, the political prisoners have been moved around continually to different maximum security prisons without prior warning to their families and/or lawyers.
Some of the prisoners have been attacked sexually. For example, Alejandrina Torres was attacked by personnel in three different prisons. The first assault took place when she was locked in a men's unit, permitting the men to exhibit themselves in front of her. In a second incident a male lieutenant forced her to put her head between his knees and observed while female guards tore off her clothes and left her naked. The authorities responded to complaints by putting Alejandrina in solitary confinement, prohibiting from calling her family and lawyer to denounce the abuses. She was penalized for violating prison rules, and a secret letter was written to a judge assigned to her case giving a false version of the events. In another prison female guards held her while a male guard inserted his fingers in her vagina and her anus during a "search". The warden who ordered the search admitted later that he did not suspect Alejandrina of having contraband, and that the search was in violation of prison rules.
Even though U.S. law stipulates that prisoners should receive medical service equal to that of the standards available to the general community, the Puerto Rican political prisoners have been denied adequate medical attention. For example, Haydee Beltran was left sterile after prison officials refused treatment for an inflammation of the pelvis for five years, ignoring episodes of drastic weight loss and severe pains in her pelvis which did not permit her to stand up.
Some of the prisoners have been locked in an underground prison with the goal of destroying them physically, psychologically, and politically. For example, Oscar Lopez who was in a maximum security prison in Marion, IL, (and now in Florence, CO) wrote in 1993:
"I am enclosed in a cell that is 8 feet wide by 9 feet long on an average of 22 hours each day. Today while I write this letter I have been 36 hours without going out and tomorrow if they do not take us out it will have been three days without moving from this same space. In this little space I have to do everything. From eating my meals to taking care of my needs. So it is my dining room and latrine at the same time. My bed is a slab of cement. And the whole cell is painted the same dead yellow color. From an aesthetic point of view it is as attractive as a jail for zoo animals."
In their 1987 report, the organization Amnesty International condemned the conditions at Marion saying:
"In Marion, violations of the Minimum Standard Rules [of the United Nations for the treatment of prisoners] are common. There is almost no rule in the Minimum Standard Rules that is not broken in one form or another..."
The 1990 report by the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice expresses "concern [...] about the amount of time that the prisoners spend in their cells in relative isolation and the limited opportunities for productive activity and recreation available in a highly controlled environment." And the necessity to "continue developing a more humane focus for the imprisonment of prisoners in a maximum security prison."
From 1986 to 1988 Alejandrina Torres was put in a Maximum Security Unit for women in Lexington, KY. Acknowledging the ideological character of the assignment to this unit, a federal judge stated in Baraldini vs. Meese:
"One thing is to place persons under greater security because they have histories of escape attempts and pose special risks for our correctional facilities. But consigning anyone to a high security unit for past political associations which they will never shed unless forced to renounce them is a dangerous mission for this country's prison system to continue."
Amnesty International concluded in 1988 that the conditions and diet in this unit were "deliberately and gratuitously oppressive."
The UNSMRTP states clearly that prisoners should be allowed to communicate with their family and friends, including visits, and that "prison personnel should be responsible for assuring and improving [the relations of] prisoners" with their families. Federal regulations and the U.S. Prison Board Rules repeat the same thing (28 CFR Sec.540.40). Nevertheless Oscar Lopez Rivera was not permitted any visit that involved physical contact. Some of the prisoners have to submit to a search before and after visits by their families even though they only see them through a glass window and speak to them by telephone. Some of the prisoners are restricted to visits by their immediate family members. While Alejandrina Torres was in Lexington her son-in-law and grandchildren were not included in this definition of immediate family used by the prison authorities. Carlos Alberto Torres, Haydee Torres, Ida Luz Rodriguez and Alejandrina Torres have suffered through periods from months to years where communication with anyone outside of their immediate family has been prohibited. Many requests for visits by different friends have been denied and political literature has been censored.
In the United States common prisoners are allowed to visit an immediate family member who is dying or to attend his or her funeral. This gesture of decency has been denied the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners. When Carmen Valentin's father died, she was not allowed to attend the funeral, even though her family was willing to pay all the expenses of the trip. Ricardo Jimenez' mother died without having seen him after having endured cancer for two years which prevented her from visiting him in prison. Elizam Escobar could not visit his father while he was sick nor was he allowed to attend his funeral.
As responsible people, concerned with the situation in our community, in our country and in other countries in the world, we have lifted our voices to protest many problems and injustices.We have protested the U.S. military interventions throughout the world; we have demanded a stop to the clear cutting of our forests; we have demanded adequate health services for those who have AIDS; we have fought against pollution in our communities; we have fought for a sound education for our children; and we have protested against racism. Also we have written letters or sent telegrams to foreign governments in support of people jailed unjustly, and protested human rights violations.
The president of the United States has the constitutional power to unconditionally pardon the Puerto Rican political prisoners. The power that the Constitution gives him to pardon people who have acted or conspired against the U.S. government has been used in the past to pardon, among others, confederate soldiers who were charged with treason during the Civil War, socialists charged with organizing armed resistance to the draft during the First World War, and the five Puerto Rican nationalists who were charged with shooting at the Blair House in Washington, DC. in 1950 and at the U.S. Congress in 1954.
The time has come for us to publicly denounce the human rights violations committed against those Puerto Ricans who have struggled for the independence of their country and to demand their unconditional amnesty. This campaign is based in principles of justice that are important to all of us:
Now is the time to unite our efforts to demand their unconditional freedom! Many voices have cried out for the release of the Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war already. A few examples of these voices include:
Puerto Rican Nationalists Oscar Collazo, Lolita Lebron, Irving Flores, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Rafael Cancel Miranda spent between 25 and 29 years in U.S. jails for their activities in support of Puerto Rico's independence and self-determination until they were pardoned by president Jimmy Carter. It is urgent that we join efforts so that the same thing will not happen to the political prisoners and prisoners of war who today find themselves serving sentences in U.S. jails. No one better to underline the importance of this campaign than Yazmin Rodriguez and Noemi Cortes, daughters of Alberto Rodriguez and Edwin Cortes: "We miss our fathers. And even though we have grown up without them, we love them very much. Nobody can take their place in our hearts, no matter what is said about them. They have earned and will always have our respect. We forgave them for leaving us and will wait with hope and admiration for their return. Unfortunately, we are not the only children without parents. There are many others who have parents in jail for this cause. We hope that people will understand our hardships and help us in our struggle for their release..."
They speak with the voices of all the children who await the day of their mother or/and father's release.
New York, NY
P.O. Box 477,
New York, NY 10159-0477 USA
Telephone: (718) 601 4751, Fax: (718) 601 3909
Latinos por el Cambio Social
c/o Central America Education Fund,
1151 Massachusetts Ave.,
Cambridge, MA 02130 USA
Telephone: (617) 492 0699
10 Hollister Apts., Hadley Rd.,
Amherst, MA 01002 USA
Telephone: (413) 256 4578
Comite Independentista Puertorriqueho del Area de Washington.
Contacts: Jose Vargas: (703) 243 4969 or
Nitza Segui: (202) 265 9678
Dylcia Pagan #88971-024
5701 8th Street, Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568 USA
Ida Luz Rodriguez #88973-024 FCI Pleasanton
5701 8th Street, Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568 USA
Carmen Valentin #88974-024
5701 8th Street, Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568 USA
Antonio Camacho-Negron #03587-069
P.O. Box 2500
White Deer, PA 17887 USA
Edwin Cortes #92153-024 Unit 3J
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808 USA
Elizam Escobar #88969-024
P.O. Box 1500
FCI Colorado Two
El Reno, OK 73036 USA
Alejandrina Torres #92152-024
FCI Danbury, Pembroke Station
Danbury, CT 06811 USA
Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi #88968-024
Lompoc Federal Penitentiary (Unit J)
3901 Klein Blvd.
Lompoc, CA 93436 USA
Alicia Rodriguez #NO7157
P.O. Box 5007
Dwight, IL 60420 USA
Luis Rosa #NO2743
P.O. Box 711
Menard, IL 62259 USA
Juan Segarra-Palmer #15357-077
601 McDonough Blvd SE
Atlanta, GA 30315 USA
Carlos Alberto Torres #88976-024
P.O. Box 1000
Oxford, WI 53952 USA
Ricardo Jimenez #88967-024 (A-2)
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837 USA
Alberto Rodriguez #92150-024 (B-3)
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837 USA
Oscar Lopez-Rivera #87651-024
P.O. Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226 USA
Hilton Fernandez and Jorge Farinacci have both been released to a half-way house in Puerto Rico.
Arm The Spirit is an autonomist/anti-imperialist collective based in Toronto, Canada. Our focus includes a wide variety of material, including political prisoners, national liberation struggles, armed communist resistance, anti-fascism, the fight against patriarchy, and more. We regularly publish our writings, research, and translation materials in our magazine and bulletins called Arm The Spirit. For more information, contact:
Arm The Spirit
P.O. Box 6326, Stn. A
Toronto, Ontario M5W 1P7 Canada
FTP: ftp.etext.org --> /pub/Politics/Arm.The.Spirit