Albion Monitor /News

Group Says FBI COINTELPRO Active Against Puerto Rico Independence Movement

by Carmelo Ruiz

Advocates say charges are punishment for refusing to be FBI witness/informer
(IPS) SAN JUAN -- Leaders in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago are charging that the FBI is trying to undermine the popular movement for an independent Puerto Rico, citing the bureau's accusations of terrorism against University of Puerto Rico professor Jose Solis.

At a recent press conference, spokespeople for the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) said openly that the Puerto Rican community, consisting of around 200,000 in Chicago, is the object of a political witch hunt, and Solis' refusal to participate in it as a witness/informer is the real cause for the criminal charges the FBI has leveled against him.

Solis is accused of bombing a U.S. Army recruitment office in Chicago in December 1992 and of belonging to a Puerto Rican nationalist revolutionary organization called the Frente Revolucionario Boricua (FRB), which claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Rafael Marrero accused of being "agent provocateur" against group that wants Puerto Rico's independence from the U.S.
The prosecution's main witness is Rafael Marrero, who was denounced as an "agent provocateur" at the press conference by the Chicago-based PRCC. Marrero studied at the University of Puerto Rico in the 1980s.

During those years he was a member of the now-defunct Anti-Electoral Front, a coalition of Marxist and nationalist groups. According to that organization's former members, Marrero was a disruptive element that caused divisions and internal conflicts.

In 1989 he moved to Chicago, where he ingratiated himself with the Puerto Rican community and found work at the PRCC. While working there, he allegedly assumed ultra-leftist and sectarian positions and tried to entice his colleagues to commit illegal and violent acts.

According to the FBI's own affidavit in the Solis case, it was Marrero who formed the FRB and it was Marrero himself who carried out the 1992 bombing. Both the FBI and Marrero claim that Solis helped carry out this violent act.

In 1995 Marrero turned against the PRCC and started publishing El Pito, a gazette which observers say was entirely devoted to vicious attacks against PRCC director Jose Lopez, Puerto Rico-born U.S. congressman Luis Gutierrez, and the Puerto Rico independence movement.

El Pito is distributed free in Chicago and contains no advertising, leaving PRCC members wondering just who is funding the publication.

Marrero is also the star witness in an investigation by the Illinois state government into the PRCC. The investigative committee is led by state representative Edgar Lopez, who is disdainful of Puerto Rico's independence movement.

Lopez is not Puerto Rican but is an ally of the right-wing New Progressive Party, which wants Puerto Rico to become a state of the American Union.

The committee is looking into allegations that the PRCC is using Illinois state funds to promote Puerto Rico's independence movement and to finance a media campaign calling for the release of the 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners held in American prisons.

These prisoners are serving long sentences. Some have been imprisoned for decades. They are accused of belonging to clandestine organizations that engage in armed struggle to bring about Puerto Rico's independence from the U.S.

PRCC members allege that their community has been the object of harassment and surveillance by the FBI's COINTELPRO program
The Illinois state investigation was sparked by a February 1997 series of articles in the Chicago Sun Times newspaper published under the headline "School Funds Used to push Terrorists' Release."

The articles allege that the students of the Roberto Clemente High School, which is run by the PRCC, are being indoctrinated with Puerto Rican nationalist ideas and that some of the faculty are members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).

Five persons were killed and dozens wounded in a series of bombings between 1974 and 1980, said to have been carried out by the FALN. However, the organization has not been active since a number of alleged members were arrested in Evanston, near Chicago, in 1980.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun Times articles' main identified source was Marrero.

"The Chicago Sun Times has gone to horrible extremes to criminalize the Puerto Rican community" says Mervin Mendez, a University professor in Chicago who is active in the campaign to have the charges against Solis dropped.

The Puerto Rican community in Chicago has a long history of collective struggle. 1973 saw the founding of the PRCC, a grassroots infrastructure of community organizations, which includes two alternative high schools, an AIDS prevention project, a community garden and a Puerto Rican history museum. PRCC activists were also instrumental in the development of a corridor of Puerto Rican-owned businesses in downtown Chicago.

PRCC members allege that their community has been the object of harassment and surveillance by the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

This program was ostensibly shut down in the 1970s after it was exposed by political activists, the press and the congress as an operation which aimed to eliminate political dissent in the United States.

According to an unclassified 1960 memorandum by then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO's number two target was the Puerto Rico independence movement.

Chicago happens to have been the scene of some of the worst violence in the 1960s. In December 1969 the FBI and the Chicago police carried out a late-night armed attack against the local headquarters of the Black Panthers, a Marxist Afro-American revolutionary organization.

This quasi-military operation resulted in the death of Panther leader Freddie Hampton.

In 1983 the FBI raided the Albizu Campos High School in search of FALN connections. Reports are that the agents came away empty handed, but left damage to the tune of $25,000.

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Albion Monitor March 16, 1998 (

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