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2008-01-10

FBI Issues Subpoenas in Investigation of Machetero Puerto Rican Independence Group

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At least three Puerto Ricans in New York City have been subpoenaed to appear before a Brooklyn federal grand jury investigating local links to the Macheteros, the three-decade-old violent Puerto Rican independence group. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez, who writes about the case in his latest column in the Daily News, discusses the story. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, before we move on with our first story, you did a piece in the New York Daily News yesterday about the FBI. Can you talk about it?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, I reported that there are now subpoenas that have been issued by the US attorney in the Eastern District of Brooklyn for a grand jury hearing that begins — a grand jury hearing tomorrow to three young Puerto Ricans here in New York City. And supposedly, the reports out of Puerto Rico, out of the press in Puerto Rico, is that these subpoenas are connected to an ongoing investigation having to do with the Macheteros, the Puerto Rican guerrilla organization that has been operating for more than twenty years. And there is apparently a new investigation going on.

But many of these young people and young professionals, most of them have no connection — well, a couple have been connected to the Vieques movement to get the Navy out of Vieques.

AMY GOODMAN: To stop bombing Vieques.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, to stop the bombing of Vieques. But at least one of them has no connection to any kind of political involvement.

And there are great fears. I talked to Congressman Jose Serrano this week, who actually was the one who got all the FBI documents from the thirty-year campaign of the FBI’s suppression of the independence movement. There’s fears that the grand juries are being used once again to intimidate the independence movement and to try to extract information from activists or dissidents, really, not people who are engaged in illegal activity.

But there’s been very little coverage. I know we’ve mentioned it on Democracy Now!, but there’s been very little coverage of these — of this grand jury investigation. And I talked to both the FBI and the US attorney’s office, but, of course, they are now refusing to comment or even confirm that an investigation is going on.

AMY GOODMAN: You begin your piece, “FBI on Fishy Fishing Expedition,” by saying, “A few days before Christmas, two men walked into Julio Pabon’s sports memorabilia store.” Who’s Julio?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, Julio Pabon is a businessman in the Bronx. Many years ago, more than three decades ago, he was an activist in the Puerto Rican independence movement. But his son — they weren’t looking for Julio, the father, who is now basically a business; they were looking for his son, who’s a Wesleyan University graduate and an aspiring filmmaker, and it was the son who they wanted to bring before — to actually slap with a subpoena. The son didn’t know what it was about. But when he went to meet with two FBI agents and a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, he then was slapped with a subpoena and told to appear tomorrow in Brooklyn federal court.

AMY GOODMAN: How powerful is the independence movement? And the Macheteros, can you explain who they are?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the Macheteros have been the group that has been around for more than twenty years. They were most famous for the 1983 Wells Fargo robbery that occurred in West Hartford, Connecticut. And, of course, their leader, the seventy-year-old Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed by the FBI two years ago. When they surrounded his farmhouse in Puerto Rico, there was shootout. He was wounded initially, but then, for more than eighteen hours, federal agents did not move in on the farmhouse, and he bled to death.

And that has been a continuing controversy in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico government, which was not aware of this attack by the FBI, has now in a lawsuit against the FBI, trying to get information on what happened, who were the agents involved. And this lawsuit is now actually — it’s before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has to decide whether it will hear the lawsuit, a direct conflict between the government of Puerto Rico, the Justice Department of Puerto Rico, and the FBI that is continuing to escalate. And even those people who are not supporters of independence in Puerto Rico feel that this is another example of how the US government totally ignores the needs and the wishes of the people of Puerto Rico or their government.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will certainly continue to follow this story.

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