Filiberto Ojeda Rios

Filiberto Ojeda Rios

Puerto Rican Nationalist Dies in Shootout

By MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERA, Associated Press Writer

HORMIGUEROS, Puerto Rico - A Puerto Rican nationalist wanted in a 1983 robbery of an armored truck in Connecticut was shot and killed by FBI agents in a shootout, ending the fugitive's 15 years on the run, the bureau said Saturday.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios, 72, fired on the agents Friday from a farmhouse in the western Puerto Rican town of Hormigueros, wounding an agent, said Luis Fraticelli, the special agent in charge of the FBI for the U.S. island territory.
"He opened the front door of his house and opened fire on the agents," Fraticelli said at a news conference amid protests from pro-independence Puerto Ricans who accused the FBI of mishandling the arrest.

"We went to arrest him but when the gunfire started we had to defend ourselves," he said.

The agents waited until midday Saturday to enter the farmhouse because they were unsure if there were explosives inside, Fratecelli said. The agents, who had been staking out the farmhouse for four days, waited for team trained in detecting explosives to arrive from Virginia.

Fraticelli said the FBI tried to persuade Ojeda Rios to surrender but negotiations fell apart. He said the nationalist had demanded that a reporter be present, but the FBI refused, fearing the journalist could be taken hostage.

The armored car robbery of 22 years ago is considered an act of domestic terrorism because the money was used to fund activities by the Puerto Rican nationalist Macheteros (, or Cane Cutters. Only about $80,000 of the $7 million has been recovered.

Ojeda Rios had been on the run since 1990 when he cut off an electronic monitoring bracelet and went into hiding while awaiting trial for the robbery of $7.2 million of the Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Conn.

A hero in the independence movement, Ojeda Rios was convicted in absentia in 1992 on charges of robbery, conspiracy and transportation of stolen money and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

The FBI agents also arrested Ojeda Rios' wife, Elma Rosado Barbosa, who was unharmed. She was released without charge Saturday evening from a federal prison outside the capital of San Juan, said her lawyer, Julio Fontanet.

The United States seized Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for U.S. president, have no voting representation in the U.S. Congress and pay no federal taxes.

Most Puerto Ricans are split between those who support making the island a U.S. state and those who favor keeping its status as a U.S. commonwealth. A small but vocal minority supports independence.

Puerto Ricans who have argued for decades about their island's relationship with the United States were unified in criticizing the FBI's handling of the arrest.

"I always said that when they went to arrest him, they would have to kill him," said Juan Mari Bras, a veteran independence leader.

Independence Party President Ruben Berrios, a critic of the violent tactics of the Macheteros, called Ojeda Rios' death "shameful."

Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila, who supports keeping the island's status as a U.S. Commonweatlh, criticized the FBI for refusing to provide information about Ojeda Rios' fate until Saturday evening. He said Puerto Rican authorities would investigate whether his death could have been prevented.

The Macheteros have been largely inactive for more than a decade (J: LIES - They were active through the 1990s and Filiberto issued communiques every year including the one issued and read on Friday, his last). The group also claimed credit for the 1981 bombing of 11 military planes at a U.S. National Guard base in Puerto Rico. Two marines were killed (LIES: No one was killed in the 1981 bombing).

Ojeda Rios was one of four men still wanted for the robbery.

In hiding, the grey-bearded Ojeda Rios sometimes granted interviews to Puerto Rican reporters, always wearing a traditional Caribbean guayabera shirt. He died on the anniversary of a brief 1868 rebellion against Spanish colonial rule in the western town of Lares. Ojeda Rios traditionally distributed a recorded speech to mark the anniversary.

"It's not a coincidence," the independence activist Pesquera said. "They chose the moment, the date and the political circumstances to carry out this assassination."


Filiberto Ojeda Rios served as the strongest and boldest symbol and active leader of our revolutionary and nationalist movement in Puerto Rico. He had been living underground since 1990 and active in the revolutionary movement since at least the early 60s. Having taken up the torch of the armed struggle after El Maestro Pedro Albizu Campos, Comandante Filiberto also received an offer directly from El Che to take up arms for the continental revolution that was to begin in Bolivia. Our Comandante instead, as did Albizu, decided to focus his energies on his beloved Patria, Puerto Rico, recognizing the need for the liberation of our homeland.

Friday was a sacred day for believers in Puerto Rico's independence; El Grito de Lares is a national and historic day for Puerto Rico, a day in which we remember the heroic rebellion of our ancestors in 1868 against colonial rule and in defense of freedom and independence. It is from which our National Anthem was born, from which our original Flag originated, from which emerged the Father of our Country (Ramon Emeterio Betances).

To have the FBI come to Puerto Rico behind the backs of ALL Puerto Ricans and murder our Comandante Filiberto, is not only a slap in the face of our entire country, but a challenge and a provocation to our movement of national liberation. It is a declaration of war and it is a dare. It is an effort to humiliate all Puerto Ricans on a day where we are to feel proud to showcase our own political, cultural, and social history. It is an effort to put us down, to communicate to us all that we are worth nothing, that we will never have control over our destinies, and that we must submit to their foreign and imperialist and murderous authority.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios dedicated his life and sacrificed his life to our freedom, to the freedom of the Puerto Rican Nation and he did this in exactly the way he wanted - fighting, struggling actively in resistance to the colonialist power and its armed forces. Filiberto embodied in his last moments what he hoped Puerto Rico herself will embody - DIGNITY and RESISTANCE and STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION FROM FOREIGN DOMINATION.

His shed blood is the call to action for our people - to recognize the Untied States for what it is: a dominating force, an invading army, a murderous tyrannical foreign government intent on doing its will on our land against the will and against the rights of a historical Puerto Rico.

His shed blood is also a call to action for our movement. We cannot sit idly by and allow our leaders to be murdered in the darkness of night. Our Nation will not allow this act to go unpunished.





New York City Demonstration Monday September 26!

Demonstration begins at 5:00 PM at 26 Federal Plaza NYC

The Demonstration on 26 federal plaza is called this coming Monday to denounce the U.S. Government assassination “while in custody” carried out as a message against the freedom loving people of Puerto Rico who respond with the Message “Patria o Muerte” “Motherland or Death”!