Was the death of Filiberto Ojeda a concocted attack of the U.S. Government to the Puerto Rican Independence struggle or was it a strategic action to provoke insurgence?
Notorious criminal and runaway fugitive Filiberto Ojeda Ríos was murdered in an alleged shootout with FBI agents on September 23, 2005 at Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, where he had been hiding for years. Filiberto Ojeda Ríos had been living in a rural neighborhood of the west coast town of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico for years before his capture. He had very nonchalantly blended in with the locals and was known by everyone as “Don Luis,” the old man who loved flowers and dutifully tended to his garden.
The truth about the identity of “Don Luis” had nothing to do with flowers or well manicured gardens. Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, was the leader of the Ejército Popular Boricua, also known as the “Macheteros”, which was none other than the revolutionary faction of Puerto Ricans (independentistas), who have wanted to sever their ties to the U.S.A. and become an independent nation. The principal philosophy of the “Macheteros” is to deploy the use of arms and/or violence in order to take back “la patria” (the nation). At the time of his capture Filiberto Ojeda Ríos featured in the FBI’S Most Wanted list for crimes such as domestic terrorism for his alleged involvement in the armed robbery of $7.2 million from the Wells Fargo Depot in Hartford, Connecticut for the alleged purpose of financing their movement.
The two most powerful institutions in the American Democracy are the FBI and the CIA. Paradoxically enough, these two ‘agencies’ –if we can call them that–, specialize in undermining the basic concepts of democracy such as our right to privacy, to free speech, the right to choose your leaders, (just to name a few) that the U.S.A. stands for. Of course, this allegedly takes place on behalf of national security. American history is plagued with accounts linking to either of these two agencies, in the most scandalous and shameful events throughout modern history: the Kennedy assassination (or shall I say Kennedys); the failed attempts to murder Fidel Castro; the Oklahoma City Bombing; the Waco Texas Massacre and 9/11, just to name a few. My fellow Puerto Rican, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, has now joined that infamous list.
On the same day Filiberto Ojeda Ríos was killed on September 23; on that same day in 1868, a contingency of about 600 Puerto Ricans rebelled against the Spanish Government in what has passed down to the history books as “El Grito de Lares” or Lares’ Uprising. Lares is a small town in the central mountainous region of the island. The Puerto Rican rebels used Lares as the launching site of their rebellion against the mistreatment of the Spanish government. Since the Puerto Rican rebels could not compare in dexterity and available weapons, the Spanish quickly ended their attempt. Nonetheless, this attempted revolt convinced the Spanish Government to confer more powers and freedoms to the people of Puerto Rico.
As I was saying before, Filiberto Ojeda Rios was killed by a contingency of FBI agents precisely the day Puerto Ricans commemorated “El Grito de Lares.” As part of a tradition, “independentistas” all head to Lares on that day and gather to renew their commitment towards the independence of Puerto Rico. Just so you know, the electoral participation of the independentistas throughout most of Puerto Rico’s modern history is of about 5% of the voters. Puerto Ricans are mainly divided between the New Progressive Party, who promotes statehood and the Popular Democratic Party who promotes our current Commonwealth Status.
As a contingency of 300 agents surrounded the house of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, on the afternoon of September 23, his voice was being heard by means of a recorded message, at the Lares’ gathering. The FBI claims they had been staking him out for months. They later explained that they chose September 23rd for their intervention, because they knew that he was going to be less guarded that day. Local news reports claim that Filiberto Ojeda Rios asked to surrender with the help of a local news reporter and that the FBI refused his offer. His wife, who was with Ojeda Ríos at the time, attests to the FBI’s refusal of his offer. Interestingly enough, the FBI agents allowed Filiberto’s wife to surrender. Even more interesting is the fact, that the FBI has made public that they don’t intend to prosecute Mrs. Ojeda.
Bear in mind folks, that Filiberto was 72 at the time of his unfortunate death. He had battled with health problems and wore a pacemaker. The refusal of Filberto’s offer to surrender drove these two very agitated parties to fire their guns. Filberto wounded an FBI agent and Filiberto himself was shot somewhere near the collar bone. All this happened that same Saturday. The media swarmed the place, the Governor of Puerto Rico and the local authorities found out (word is they found out via CNN) that the FBI had an operation going on to capture Ojeda Ríos. The FBI never notified the Chief of the Police Department, (who by the way is a former FBI agent) or the Chief of the Justice Department, or the Attorney General of their intentions to capture Ojeda Ríos or asked for assistance in doing so.
The plot thickens. Since the local authorities found out that Filiberto Ojeda Ríos had been murdered by the FBI, the Governor ordered the Attorney General – Pedro G. Goyco- to send two local Prosecutors to investigate the alleged crime scene. If Filiberto had been killed, only the local prosecutors had jurisdiction to order the removal of his body. When the two prosecutors arrived to the crime scene, the FBI denied them access. The Attorney General came down to the scene himself and he was also denied access. To make a long story short, local authorities were not allowed to enter the scene until 72 hours later, where they found Filiberto Ojeda Rios dead in a large pool of blood. It makes you wonder, what took them so long?
As soon as the local authorities were allowed to enter the scene, the Chief of the Justice Department, Roberto Sanchez, issued a subpoena to the FBI ordering them to hand in for analysis the gun that allegedly killed Ojeda Ríos. The Chief of the Justice Department also ordered an autopsy of Filiberto’s body. Meanwhile Filiberto’s death resonated throughout the island, creating very polarized opinions. Some people felt that Filberto was a hero who had died for “la patria.” Others believed Ojeda Ríos was a criminal and a fugitive and that he had finally been brought to justice. On one thing, however, everybody agreed: the circumstances of his death were very suspicious.
The autopsy performed by the Medical Examiner’s office revealed that Filiberto Ojeda had bled to death. The Chief Medical Examiner concluded in his report that if Filiberto Ojeda had received timely medical attention, he most likely would have survived. The FBI later explained that they waited 24 hours after hearing the last gunshot from Ojeda Ríos, to enter the farmhouse he was hiding in because they were following orders from ‘Washington.’ This is the stuff on which conspiracy theories develop and take a life of their own.
The majority of the Puerto Rican population believes Ojeda Ríos was intentionally murdered by the FBI. The independentistas claim that the U.S. Government tried to hurt the independence struggle by killing Ojeda Rios. I beg to differ. I believe the U.S. Government intentionally killed Ojeda Ríos, strategically, on the commemoration of Lares’ Uprising not to hurt the independence movement (trust me, I live in the Island –what movement are they talking about?), but to generate insurgence and infuse renewed strengths to that ailing movement. Bush is well known for his unjustified violence-prone presidency and this just seems like something he would be responsible for. The fact of the matter is that the time is drawing close not for Puerto Ricans to decide their political fate (we have not really agreed on that yet), but for the U.S Government to decide the fate of Puerto Rico and the almost 4 million Puerto Ricans who have been granted, by means of a congressional act, American citizenship.
Puerto Ricans seem very comfortable with their ties to the U.S. It would take something truly grave and offensive, some might think, to outrage the masses. The death of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos is not it. I believe that’s what ‘Washington’ intended to provoke: outrage. It’s easier to explain to the global community that you had to cut the Puerto Ricans off because they revolted against you than to cut them off because you don’t see more use in your relationship with them anymore. Unfortunately for the pistoleros in Washington this was an ill conceived strategy that will go awry. The catch-22 is that even after his death, Filberto Ojeda Ríos always got his way. He never really served jail time for the crimes he committed.