Workers Vanguard No. 868

14 April 2006


For the Right of Independence for Puerto Rico!

Down with FBI Repression Against Puerto Rican Militants!

The U.S. government is stepping up its campaign of repression and terror against the Puerto Rican guerrilla nationalist group Ejército Popular Boricua, known as Los Macheteros. On February 10, heavily armed units of the FBI raided homes and offices of six independence activists who it claimed were associated with Los Macheteros. As Homeland Security helicopters hovered overhead, the FBI arrived in caravans, terrorizing whole neighborhoods. The Feds carted off computers, mailing lists and personal property, and abused the activists’ family members. As protesters and news media gathered outside the apartment of Liliana Laboy, a sociologist and trade-union activist, FBI thugs knocked people to the ground and pepper-sprayed reporters’ faces, causing several reporters to be hospitalized.

In claiming that the raids were “aimed at preventing a potential domestic terrorist attack,” the FBI invoked the U.S. rulers’ “war on terror”—an all-purpose rationale for imperialist war and occupation abroad and repression at home against immigrants, black people, labor and opponents of imperialist depredation. In fact, the raids were aimed at terrorizing all who support independence for Puerto Rico, the principal remaining colony of the U.S., or defend Puerto Rico’s working people. On 20 October 2004, the FBI raided the headquarters of the Independent Authentic Union of water workers, which was on strike in defense of health care benefits. Two weeks earlier, the FBI had accused the union of planning to “sabotage” Puerto Rico’s water supply.

Now the FBI has arrested Antonio Camacho Negrón, a 60-year-old veteran Machetero who was seized on March 28 after the opening day of a conference for decolonization that he had organized at the University of Puerto Rico. Camacho Negrón is an old comrade of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, the 72-year-old independence fighter and cofounder of Los Macheteros who was assassinated by FBI agents last year in his rural Puerto Rico home (see “Protest FBI Killing of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos!” WV No. 856, 14 October 2005).

Los Macheteros has carried out attacks against the U.S. imperialist government apparatus, such as a 1981 bombing that destroyed nine airplanes at the Puerto Rican Air National Guard base, at a time when Puerto Rico was a staging ground for counterrevolutionary operations in Central America. We stood in defense of Los Macheteros in 1985, when the group was the target of an earlier FBI “anti-terrorist” dragnet (see “Free the Macheteros!” WV No. 388, 4 October 1985). Like Ojeda Ríos, Camacho Negrón was convicted in connection with a 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo depot in Hartford, Connecticut, which was carried out to help fund pro-independence activities. In 1989, Camacho Negrón was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He has been rearrested three times for refusing to accept parole conditions that restrict his political activity and associations.

The FBI’s brutal crackdown has sparked angry protests and aroused nationalist sentiment throughout Puerto Rico. On February 26, some 8,000 students, trade unionists, independence activists and others marched in San Juan behind a banner reading, “Respect Puerto Rico—FBI Get Out!” Protesters also demonstrated against the FBI outside the World Baseball Classic games recently held in San Juan. With outrage mounting over the repression, the Puerto Rican Department of Justice has sued the FBI in U.S. federal court on the grounds that the FBI has refused to release any documents to Puerto Rican authorities investigating the killing of Ojeda Ríos and the attack on the reporters or to name the agents involved. In fact, the assassination of Ojeda Ríos was carried out with the help of Puerto Rican cops, who closed off the roads as the FBI launched its assault.

Even many Puerto Ricans who oppose independence and advocate statehood for the island rightly see that the FBI’s repression against independence activists is a calculated blow to Puerto Rican national pride. The people of Puerto Rico have deeply contradictory feelings in regard to the island’s status. On the one hand, the outrage over the recent attacks as well as the massive protests that forced the Navy to stop its bombing exercises in Vieques in 2003 show that the Puerto Rican people have a strong sense of nationhood. On the other hand, there is a fear that independence for Puerto Rico, which already has a per capita income 25 percent below that of the poorest U.S. state, would mean sinking to the level of poverty of its Caribbean neighbors. There is as well a desire to hold on to the ability to live and work on the U.S. mainland, where almost three million Puerto Ricans reside.

The Spartacist League/U.S. defends the right of self-determination for Puerto Rico and demands: FBI, CIA, U.S. military out of Puerto Rico! We support political freedom for advocates of independence to organize, and we demand the release of all imprisoned independence fighters. But our Marxist perspective is counterposed to the nationalist strategy of the Macheteros, which is premised on the unity of Puerto Ricans of all classes around the call for independence. The only road to ending imperialist domination is through socialist revolution—in Puerto Rico and on the mainland. This perspective necessarily entails political struggle to break the Puerto Rican proletariat from nationalist “unity” with the local bourgeoisie. In the U.S., it means mobilizing the proletariat in opposition to the imperialist rulers and their Democratic and Republican parties.

As we wrote in our article protesting the assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos:

“We seek to unite Puerto Rican workers and the multiracial working class in the U.S. in common struggle against U.S. imperialism, from Central America to the Caribbean and the U.S. We fight to forge Trotskyist parties to lead the workers to power both on the mainland and in Puerto Rico. A victorious workers revolution in the U.S. would immediately free Puerto Rico and all other nations subjugated by U.S. imperialism and establish relations with them on the basis of their freedom to exercise their national self-determination.”