Resistance is alive in Puerto Rico, as seen during Ojeda Rios' funeral

Resistance is alive in Puerto Rico, as seen during Ojeda Rios' funeral

** "Liberty must be paid for at its just price and it is written with the heroism and sacrifice of the purest and most noble of our nationality." Pedro Albizu Campos **

** "El pueblo no se va a quedar con los brazos cruzados...la debilidad no adelanta nada." Filiberto Ojeda Rios **


For many Americans, it is inconceivable that their government openly overthrows lawful governments, illegally intervenes in other countries, and brazenly conducts political assassinations. Such things happened in the past during the tumultuous 60s or 70s and surely not by America. The 1960s have a lot in more in common with today than many of us think. In 1969, Black Panther Fred Hampton was murdered while he slept by police officers, at the height of the FBI's sinister COINTEL Program, which, by the way, also identified the Puerto Rican independence movement as the strongest threat to American national security. Several years later, sister Assata Shakur was forced to go underground in order to safeguard her life and to safeguard justice in her case. During those very years, the Puerto Rican independence movement was fractured by the FBI's infiltration and tactics which sowed division and dissent and which included outright political assassinations and bombings.

In 2005, we have witnessed an event in Puerto Rico which relates directly to the three examples given above. In 1990, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, leader of Los Macheteros, went underground to safeguard his life and to safeguard the justice he knew he was not going to receive during trial. Just like Assata knew that she was being railroaded, Filiberto also knew he would be as well. Proof today are the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners (actually, ALL political prisoners, too) who are serving an average sentence of 90 years, convicted of seditious conspiracy not any overt act. So he went underground, symbolizing, as Assata did and does, resistance to a racist and imperialist system which demonizes and attempts to destroy revolutionary dissent.

During the last several months, the Puerto Rican independence movement has witnessed infighting and division between its main groups, with leaders refusing to meet with other leaders, with news articles heightening the tension, and with a strangely familiar tension in the air. This was the same tension that fractured the movement in the 1970s, when J. Edgar Hoover determined that our movement had to be neutralized through the sowing of division, dissent, taking advantage of differences, personal attacks and insults, etc. It is all too familiar and all too coincidental.

Last Friday, September 23rd was a hugely important day in Puerto Rican history (El Grito de Lares). For those of us who firmly believe in the ideal of independence for Puerto Rico, it is a sacred day, where we commemorate the cry for freedom given by patriots in 1868 against Spanish rule and the establishment of the first Republic. The FBI chose this day to assassinate Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who after 15 years underground, was a symbol of Puerto Rican resistance, dignity, and collective self-worth and affirmation. It would seem too coincidental to think that the FBI chose to attack this person, on this day, after months of strange bickering amongst our independence groups.

It would seem that, while Filiberto's last message calling for unity among our groups was being played at the Lares comemmoration event, the FBI put their plan into action - after having laid the groundwork for a weakened movement unable to spring into action to politically defend itself and the country, they would go after an attack on a major leader. They shot at his home hundreds of times, refused his requests for a Puerto Rican journalist, and - amid his shouts glorifying Puerto Rico's Independence and his condemnation of them as cowards and assassins - shot him and left him lying there to bleed to death.

Today, the FBI surrendered the house back to his widow and when she arrived at the front door, saw the dried blood that had trickled out from under the front door as Filiberto lay suffering. Fred Hampton was shot as he slept in his bed, as evidenced by the enormous amounts of blood remaining at the scene.

Hampton's death galvanized the Panthers and the African-American and Civil Rights movement to deepen their commitment and actually radicalized those causes, probably playing an important role in the creating of the Black Liberation Army and certainly the Weather Underground. I cannot help but to remember Assata's words concerning the manifestation of owner-slave dyanmics today or the continued manifestation of slave owner mentality exhibited by the United States towards its people of color and towards its colonial possessions, like Puerto Rico. The death penalty was applied to those slaves who rebelled. But Puerto Rico refuses to be exterminated.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios' death has galvanized all Puerto Ricans today. What remains to be seen, however, is tomorrow. It will certainly mean a return of the dormant armed struggle movement, as the Macheteros have already promised revenge. But what is more important is the effect it may have on the psyche of the colonized mind in Puerto Rico, hopefully stirring within it a recognition of the powerless and brutal nature of this colonial system. Not only has the FBI misplayed their hand, they have inadvertently provided needed insight to our people about the brutal nature of the collective enslavement known as colonialism. Their hope for a weakened movement unable to respond to this attack was dead wrong. This action has radicalized thousands of Puerto Ricans, unified the movement, and awoken the consciousness of countless others. As Comandante Filiberto joins the ranks of the three most important and revered revolutionary leaders of Puerto Rico in 100 years (Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, and now Filiberto), Puerto Rico enters into a new phase in her historical development and on the historical path toward freedom. Let us hope the end result, as in life after death, will be Freedom as the ultimate prize. I know that inevitably, it will be so.

Que Viva Puerto RIco Libre!!