The truth about these crimes by Wash-ington's secret police has come increasingly into the open. These disclosures began in the 1970s with the release of many files from the FBI's infamous Cointelpro (Counterintelligence Program). More facts came out in Puerto Rican Senate hearings on the 1978 Cerro Maravilla case, where two young independence fighters were executed by Puerto Rican cops, with complicity and cover-up efforts by FBI and colonial government officials.
Now, in the midst of sustained demonstrations against the U.S. military in Puerto Rico and a continued campaign for the release of pro-independence political prisoners, FBI director Louis Freeh has released thousands of previously classified documents that further document Washington's war against the independence movement.
On May 24 FBI agents delivered 8,600 pages of these files to the offices of Congressman José Serrano. This was the first installment in an agreement to turn over to Serrano as many as 1.8 million files. Serrano is a supporter of the Clinton administration who has been pleading with the president to avoid antagonizing Puerto Ricans with the renewed Navy bombing of Vieques.
Freeh hinted at what is contained in some of the files when he acknowledged at a Congressional budget hearing in March that the FBI has violated the civil rights of many Puerto Ricans and engaged in "egregious illegal action, maybe criminal action."
According to a New York Daily News reporter who looked at the files, this first batch focuses on the FBI's longtime repression of the pro-independence Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, in particular the party's central leader, Pedro Albizu Campos.
Under his leadership, the Nationalist Party was the foremost pro-independence force in Puerto Rico from 1930 to the 1950s. Albizu spent many years in U.S. prisons because of his intransigent opposition to U.S. colonial rule.
FBI targeted Albizu Campos
The files quote the U.S. District Attorney in Puerto Rico, A. Cecil Snyder, complaining to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that Albizu Campos was publishing "articles insulting the United States" and giving "public speeches in favor of independence." This was in l936, at a time of massive labor battles and rising popularity of the independence movement.
To justify the persecution of the Nationalist Party, Snyder claimed without evidence that Albizu Campos might be behind several bombings of U.S. government buildings. The FBI sent agents to Puerto Rico to go after the Nationalist Party. That year, he and several top party leaders were framed up, convicted, and locked up in a federal prison in Atlanta on charges of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government by force and violence. He was sentenced to 15 years.
The files document the fact that the FBI even had the first elected governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín, under surveillance for more than 20 years. Muñoz Marín, initially an advocate of independence, founded the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which helped Washington push through the present form of colonial rule, known as commonwealth status.
In the l960s and '70s, with the resurgence of the Puerto Rican struggle, Washington unleashed a dirty war against the independence movement and a wide range of groups and individuals deemed "subversive."
According to the released documents, on June 21, l961, FBI chief Hoover wrote, "In order to appraise the caliber of leadership in the Puerto Rican independence movement, particularly as it pertains to our efforts to disrupt their activities and compromise their effectiveness, we should have intimate detailed knowledge of the most influential leaders."
The FBI's Cointelpro program launched in the l960s sought to disrupt struggles against police brutality, the movement against drafting Puerto Ricans into the U.S. army, the fight against the U.S. naval occupation of the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques, and union struggles.
Under Cointelpro, the FBI and other police agencies targeted the political activities of millions of people in the United States. It disrupted civil rights organizations, the Chicano struggle, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Communist Party USA, the Socialist Workers Party, and women's rights organizations, among others. The Puerto Rico operation was one of the FBI's largest Cointelpro campaigns, with at least 37 separate disruption programs.
Many facts about Cointelpro were revealed through a lawsuit filed in 1973 by the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialist Alliance against the FBI, CIA, and other cop agencies for spying and harassment. The SWP and YSA won a ruling in their case in 1986.
Cerro Maravilla case
Some of the most damning information about FBI repression in Puerto Rico became public in 1991-92 hearings by the Puerto Rico Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearings investigated the l978 assassination by Puerto Rican cops of two young independence fighters at Cerro Maravilla and the subsequent cover-up by authorities.
An internal 1978 White House memorandum introduced at the hearings described FBI disruption activities, including attempts to create dissension within the pro-independence movement, mail tampering, and illegally inspecting bank records.
Testimony at the hearings showed that the Cerro Maravilla operation was part of a systematic campaign by U.S. authorities to smear the pro-independence movement as terrorist. Cops reported dozens of terrorist bombings on the island that never occurred, while carrying out bombings themselves that they blamed on pro-independence activists. During the l978 electrical workers strike, for example, a police agent conducted sabotage against the company that was used to violence-bait the unionists.
Also revealed was the existence of right-wing death squads, including one led by the chief U.S. marshal, José López, and U.S. Navy lieutenant Alex de la Zerda.
The decision by Clinton's FBI today to open up documents on their spying and disruption of the independence movement confirms all the facts that had previously been revealed. Freeh's move is an effort to portray all this as a thing of the past and claim there is a "new" and "clean" FBI. But that is a lie.
One case in point. On March 12, l999, Puerto Rican independence activist José Solís Jordán was convicted in a U.S. federal court in Chicago on frame-up "terrorism" charges of attempting to blow up a military recruitment facility in Chicago in l992. He was convicted on the testimony of a string of FBI agents and a paid FBI informer and provocateur, and is now serving a 51-month jail term.
This same FBI provocateur, Rafael Marrero, was the key witness in a witch-hunt against independence activists at Clemente High School in Chicago who were falsely accused of stealing school money to fund the independence movement. Despite an intensive investigation and public hearings by an Illinois Senate committee in l998-99, misuse of funds was never proven.
Besides Solís, five more independence activists remain in U.S. prisons. An international campaign continues to be waged to free these political prisoners.
In response to the rising national struggle in Puerto Rico, the U.S. government will escalate the use of its political police to try to disrupt and smear the independence movement and other social struggles. Because of increased awareness of FBI crimes, however, Washington will have a harder time gaining public acceptance for its actions.
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