By Melissa Correa Velázquez
April 4, 2008
The archbishop of San Juan, Roberto González Nieves, confirmed to EL VOCERO that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents interviewed him with respect to two visits that the religious leader had with the president of the Boricua Popular Army Los Macheteros, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, while he was in clandestinity.
González Nieves indicated that some four or five months following the death of Ojeda Ríos, two FBI agents visited him at the Bishopric in Viejo San Juan. The agents’ visit came about due to the fact that during the search of the Machetero leader’s home on September 23, 2005 in Hormigueros, authorities confiscated a book the Archbishop had given him and in which the Archbishop had inscribed a dedication. The book was “Memory and Identity,” by now deceased pope John Paul II.
He indicated that the interview with the agents lasted several hours and was conducted in two parts. The first was about the Plan of Well Being of the Union, by the Independent Union of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (UIA by its Spanish initials), of which the Archbishop was president of the Board; and the second was about Ojeda Ríos. “They asked me a lot of questions, but I can’t go into much detail because it would create an unnecessary atmosphere at this point. It lasted several hours. They called first and made an appointment. The atmosphere was respectful, and the dialogue was respectful. The bishops of Puerto Rico are aware of this interview,” he commented.
He explained that his communication with Ojeda Ríos came about after an interview with the press where he was asked if he would be willing to dialogue with the Machetero leader, and he responded affirmatively, and that he would speak with him about peace and non-violence. “Seven months later I received a communication from Filiberto, and yes, I spoke with him personally on two occasions. Later I sent him a book by John Paul II with a dedication. He was reading it when the tragedy took place,” the prelate pointed out, clarifying that he was not Ojeda Ríos’ confessor.
As for his meetings with the Machetero leader, he expressed that “we had a pastoral dialogue. Above all, I spoke to him of the importance of non-violence, the methodology of dialogue and mediation and the importance of a spiritual guide. I detected in him an opening, and in his interior he was making favorable changes.” He did not offer details about the changes and declined to give details about the place of the meetings. He indicated that Ojeda Ríos had asked for a third meeting, but the Archbishop responded that it would not be prudent. “He sent me a note about another meeting, and I responded that it would not be prudent, and I sent him the book. It wasn’t prudent for all the circumstances that were taking place,” he responded concisely.
Two days ago the Bar Association announced that it will seek the intervention of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations (UN) to investigate the death of people at the hands of law enforcement or paramilitary agents. Ojeda Ríos was shot to death during an operation by FBI agents at his home in Hormigueros. Currently a Grand Jury continues to evaluate evidence about supposed illegal activities of the Boricua Popular Army. On February 10, 2006, the FBI confirmed in a press release that it carried out some six search warrants in Río Piedras, Trujillo Alto, San Germán, Aguadilla and Isabela “to prevent a potential terrorist attack.”