In Puerto Rico, tens of thousands attended the memorial and funeral services for Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios who was shot dead Friday by FBI agents. It is believed to be one of the largest funerals in Puerto Rican history. El Diario reported over 1,000 vehicles took part in a caravan from San Juan to the eastern town of Naguabo where he was buried.
Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the shooting. Amnesty said that the killing should be considered an extra-judicial execution if the FBI deliberately killed Ojeda Ríos or deliberately left him to die, when they could have arrested him. FBI agents shot him Friday night at his home but then waited 20 hours before entering the house. Autopsy reports show that he bled to death. His wife Elma Rosado Barbosa said Monday that FBI agents fired first but the FBI denies this. Ojeda Rios had been living underground for 15 years and was wanted for his role in a $7 million bank heist.
The militant group that Ojeda Rios led, Los Macheteros, issued a statement Tuesday saying they would avenge his death. The killing has outraged Puerto Ricans of all political stripes especially because it occurred on Sept. 23 — the anniversary of an 1868 uprising against Spanish rule. Congressman Jose Serrano of New York said he is concerned that this is the beginning of a new government crackdown on the Puerto Rican independence movement. On Monday, FBI Director Robert Mueller responded to increasing criticism by announcing an independent investigation into the shooting.
In Washington, the former head of FEMA, Michael Brown, defended his agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina and laid much of the blame on what he described as the dysfunctional state and local governments in Louisiana. Brown appeared before a Congressional hearing on Tuesday that was largely boycotted by Democrats who are seeking an independent probe. Brown also said FEMA’s response was hurt by the Bush administration’s focus on the so-called war on terror at the expense of domestic emergency operations. Brown said FEMA was short 500 people in an organization of about 2,500.
In other news on Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false. The paper said most of the horror stories that emerged from the Superdome have never been confirmed. Police now say six people died inside the Superdome–four from natural causes, one from a drug overdose and one suicide. There have no official reports of rape and no eyewitnesses to sexual assault. The Los Angeles Times reports that “race may have played a factor” in the wild rumors that spread through much of the media.
In Iraq at least six people have been killed by a suspected female suicide bomber in an attack on an army recruitment centre in northern Iraq. The BBC reports that if this is confirmed it would be the first known use of a woman bomber in Iraq.
Lynndie England has been sentenced to three years in prison for her role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Her sentence fell well short of the maximum 10-year sentence she faced. The 22-year-old army reservist was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and pointing to an inmate’s genitals. Meanwhile an Army Captain has accused the Pentagon of being more concerned about tracking down soldiers who report detainee abuse than in investigating the accusations. Army Captain Ian Fishback recently helped provide Human Rights Watch with information on new cases of abuse and torture taking part in U.S. prisons in Iraq. Fishback said the Army is now threatening to file charges against him if he disobeys an order to disclose the names of two Army Sergeants who also spoke to Human Rights Watch. Fishback told the New York Times, “We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I’m concerned this will take a new twist, and they’ll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem.”
The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site. Many of the photos depict dismembered Iraqi corpses and body parts. Some also were submitted by soldiers in Afghanistan.
A U.S. immigration judge has ruled Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles won’t be deported to Cuba or Venezuela where he is wanted for his role in blowing up a Cuban jetliner in 1976 killing 73 people. The former CIA operative has spent four decades trying to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban government through assassination attempts and bombings. He has been in US custody since May after he illegally entered the country. Venezuela had asked that he be extradited to stand trial. On Tuesday the immigration judge ruled that Posada would not be deported to either country because of the possibility that he would be tortured there. The Convention Against Torture act prohibits the United States from deporting someone to a country where they could be tortured. Venezuela condemned the decision. The judge’s decision has not ruled out the removal of Posada to another country.
Israel has begun firing artillery shells into the northern Gaza Strip in an intensification of its five-day offensive. Haaretz reports this marks the first time Israel has used cannons against targets in the Gaza Strip since the 1967 Six Day War. Much of Gaza City is now without power after a series of Israeli air strikes. Haaretz reports a missile struck a building used by the ruling Fatah party to provide tutoring lessons to school children, and cash and food assistance to families. Israel has justified the attacks saying they are needed to stop Palestinians from firing rockets into Israel. Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israel has shut down and sealed 15 offices of different social welfare organizations claiming they are funneling funds to families whose members were killed in suicide bombings or were jailed in Israeli prisons. And over 400 Palestinians have been arrested in recent days.
In labor news, leaders of the AFL-CIO’s breakaway unions met to officially form a new labor federation called the Change to Win federation. Anna Burger of SEIU was selected as the federation’s chairwoman and Edgar Romney of UNITE HERE was selected as treasurer. It’s the first time a woman and an African American, respectively, have reached such pinnacles of leadership in the U.S. labor movement. The group announced one of its chief goals will be to organize workers at Wal-Mart.
The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that may determine the future of the country’s campaign finance laws. 30 years ago the court ruled that the government may limit how much money donors give to candidates, but it may not limit how much the candidates spend. The case centers on a Vermont state law that caps spending in races for governor at $300,000 per candidate, with smaller caps for other state offices. Backers of the law’s provision say a favorable ruling from the high court could stem the ever growing tide of big money in politics; critics of the law say limiting spending on campaigns improperly impinges free speech.
And in Texas, attorneys for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have expressed concern that Delay may be indicted for conspiracy for his role in funneling corporate money to support state candidates in violation of state law. Two associates of Delay have already been indicted. House Republican rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement.