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HomeAbout NBHRNHuman RightsPuerto Rico: Surveillance, Violence And Rebellion

Puerto Rico: Surveillance, Violence And Rebellion

Jesús Dávila, Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, October 30, 2008 (NCM) – The surveillance by several agents in four vehicles of independentist leader Norberto Cintrón Fiallo, for which the United States government has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, is, as of this writing, the most serious incident to take place in the last remaining days until elections.

The cases are heating up the atmosphere prior to Tuesday’s elections, for which the polls say the opposition New Progressive Party will defeat the incumbent Popular Democratic Party, opening the path for the newly formed Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico and predicting high probabilities that the small but influential Puerto Rican Independence Party will maintain its electoral franchise.

Those who promote not voting in the colonial elections are also active, including a street theater group that performs a traveling satirical play in which they urge people to vote for “No One.”

The ostentatious persecution of Cintrón Fiallo— effectuated by four vehicles that surveilled him for hours, from his home and across from his work— took place only a few days after the Boricua Popular Army–Macheteros announced they had penetrated the secret information systems of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On that occasion, the Macheteros made public the name of one of the alleged participants in the operation of the commando group that killed its commander Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in 2005.

Cintrón Fiallo, a Puerto Rican born in the Dominican Republic and who leads the Puerto Rican Workers Guild, has been the target of persecution for many years. As part of this long history, he was imprisoned as a result of accusations that later were dismissed; there have been attempts to link him with armed clandestine actions; and he served time in prison for refusing to cooperate with a U.S. Grand Jury.

Months after Ojeda’s death, Cintrón Fiallo’s house was searched, as were the homes of other well known independentists, in an operation where the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security used helicopters in a great display of force. The FBI’s movements, which have also included grand jury subpoenas served on Puerto Rican independentists in the U.S., have not produced a single arrest of the leaders of the Macheteros, nor its commander, who identifies himself only by his nom de guerre “Guasábara.”

To date, the only arrest they have managed to announce is that of Avelino González Claudio, fugitive since 1986 and alleged to have participated in the theft of $7 million from Wells Fargo, for which the Macheteros took responsibility in 1983. In that case, it was the national Police of Puerto Rico who turned over the fugitive to the FBI.

This week, immediately following the new surveillance, Cintrón Fiallo reaffirmed his anti-election position in a message in which he called on people to follow the example of Ojeda Ríos and said, “we are waging a truly revolutionary movement, we are developing a true strategy to convince the people, the working class, of the benefits of becoming a republic which is free and truly sovereign.”

In fact, the message alludes to the eminent Pedro Albizu Campos, which emerged on the eve of the commemoration of the nationalist uprising of October 30, 1950.

Cintrón Fiallo’s case took place ten days after the surveillance and aggression against the famous independentista photographer Farrique Pesquera, in the capital neighborhood of Santurce. In both cases, people recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles used by the alleged police agents.

Meanwhile, violent acts have also been noted in the context of the pro-U.S. parties, and half a dozen incidents have already been reported, including the burning of campaign vehicles of the opposition New Progressive Party, as well as fights in which bottles have been thrown.

At the same time, social rebellion is spreading. This same week, administrative workers at the University of Puerto Rico managed to paralyze the eleven public university campuses. The university administration decreed the university closed until after the elections, when the Brotherhood of Non Docent Employees decided to go on strike demanding economic conditions similar to those conceded to other university workers.

Just the week before, the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico—whose union representation was declared null by the government— won an important triumph in defeating the attempt by a government backed union affiliated with the U.S. union Change to Win, to organize all public school teachers. That confrontation in which the U.S. union invested millions of dollars, has been one of the worse defeats suffered by the government’s labor strategy.

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