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1999-12-17

Governor of Puerto Rico Offers $5.7 Million to Subjects of Police Spying, Many Say It Is Not Enough

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Governor Pedro Rosello of Puerto Rico this week offered $5.7 million to settle suits filed by thousands of people who were subjected to police spying operations because they were suspected of being independence supporters.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans filed the suits after the government admitted in the 1980’s that it had been keeping secret dossiers on more than 135,000 people since the 1940’s. Plaintiffs have asked for $100 billion in damages, saying their lives were destroyed by lies leaked from the files.

Rosello offered $6,000 each to lawsuit plaintiffs with more than 30 pages in their dossiers. He also offered $3,000 to others with lengthy files who have not sued.

Police began collecting information on suspected independence advocates after the government passed the so-called Gag Law of 1948, which made it illegal to show the Puerto Rican flag, sing Puerto Rican national songs or hold rallies in support of independence. In 1987, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court ruled the surveillance illegal and over the next five years, the government released thousands of files to their subjects.

Stunned Puerto Ricans–from housewives to prominent journalists–discovered old friends had been transcribing their conversations, co-workers had been taking secret photographs of them, and neighbors had been stealing their mail in conspiracy with the government.

Guest:

  • Juan Manuel Palasqua, Puerto Rican journalist and commentator now working with Channel 11-TV, WUNO Radio and the San Juan Star newspaper. He is getting $3,000 in compensation for the government compiling a dossier on him.

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