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The Bloody Face of Colonialism and of State Terror -- US Style
By Dave Lindorff
The Bush administration, which has already made a joke of Americans' birthright by imprisoning American citizen Jose Padilla for four years and running without charge, has now irrevocably destroyed America's image in Latin America by reintroducing official death squads in the American colony of Puerto Rico.
On the sacred Puerto Rican anniversary of the 1868 uprising called the Grito de Lares against Spanish colonial rule, over 100 heavily armed FBI agents, backed by helicopters and heavy weapons, surrounded the home of Puerto Rican militant nationalist Filberto Ojeda Rios, 72, and his wife, who were home alone, and killed him with a single sniper bullet to the upper chest. Ojeda Rios, who was not mortally wounded by the shot, and who reportedly posed no threat to federal agents at any time, was left to bleed slowly to death as the agents barred entry to rescuers for 24 hours. (The Justice Dept. initially tried to claim agents responded to fire from Ojeda Rios, but later reports from his wife, a neighbor and others suggest that he offered no resistance. The presence of multiple sharpshooters among the FBI assault team adds to suspicions about the agency's "self-defense" claim.)
Ojeda Rios gained notoriety in the U.S.--and a measure of fame and respect in Puerto Rico--as head of the Macheteros, a militant pro-independence group that succesfully robbed a Wells Fargo armored truck in Connecticut in 1983. After several years in hiding, he was caught and tried in federal court in Puerto Rico on attempted murder charges (involving the wounding of a federal agent) , but was cquitted by a jury that accepted his argument that the shooting had been an act of self-defense against U.S. government agents' aggression. While out on bond awaiting trial on the robbery charge, he cut off his monitoring anklet and went underground. Tried in absentia on that charge he received a 55-year sentence--the reason agents were still after him.
The senseless and brutal assassination of Ojeda Rios, and the way the whole operation was conducted, with no warning to local law enforcement authorities and no effort to peacefully arrest him, should serve notice on all Americans (for remember, Puerto Ricans are all full U.S. citizens by birth) that this Bush administration is ready to resort even to death squads to enforce its will and to intimidate the public.
As with all such repression, this effort is doomed to failure. The response in Puerto Rico has been immediate, with all parties, including the usually docile pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party, and the pro-statehood party, condemning the murder, and the universities closing down for a day of mourning.
Many mainland Americans could be excused for missing the significance of this ugly event, which received very little news coverage.
But we ignore this act of state terror at our own risk. Who will be the next target of the "Justice" Department's official death squads?