Puerto Rico's Colonial Case

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 conferred with 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 pro- gram 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.' 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.

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 Rosello, 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 under cover 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 the FBI 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 (along with other members of his division) of kidnapping, torturing, and assassinating in 1977 the labor leader, Juan Rafael Caballero.

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' De-colonization 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 US 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.


The Puerto Rican National Liberation Struggle

The colonial reality of Puerto Rico has created a National Liberation struggle that has produced many independence Freedom Fighters and many pro-independence organizations; that have been actively educating, organizing, and mobilizing the Puerto Rican community against U.S. colonialism. The nature of anti-colonial struggles often gives birth to clandestine revolutionary organizations, which engage in armed struggle against the colonial powers.

The Puerto Rican Political Prisoners were apart of two of these clandestine organizations;Las Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN) and Los Macheteros. Their arrests and subsequent imprisonment correspond to a planned effort by the FBI to destroy their organizations and repress their activities.


In 1978, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) --a clandestine pro-independence group operating in the US-- was designated by the FBI as one of the most significant threats to the security of the United States. Between 1980 and 1983, 14 alleged members of the FALN were arrested, accused of seditious conspiracy, and sentenced to prison terms between 50 and 90 years.


In August, 1985, the FBI arrested 13 people accused of being members of the clandestine group Los Macheteros (machete wielders) in Puerto Rico. On September 1983, Los Macheteros claimed responsibility for the expropriation of $7 millions from a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut. During the arrests of August 1985, around 300 agents were used to search the houses and offices of dozens of pro-independence supporters and sympathizers. The agents made a massive display of weapons; dozens of houses were submitted to electronic surveillance for months in violation of the US Constitution and Puerto Rico's laws; tens of thousands of calls were taped; those arrested were taken out of Puerto Rico and brought to trials in the mainland. The accused were kept in preventive detention for more than a year, and their most elemental rights were violated.


It is important to note that under United Nations Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 of December 1960, it states that colonialism is an international crime and that a colonized people have every right to use whatever means necessary to end their colonial plight (which includes armed struggle). This international resolution makes Puerto Rico’s colonial reality and the imprisonment of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners an international crime and human rights violations.