Puerto Rico: FBI agents raid homes

On the morning of Feb. 10, agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Puerto Rico started a series of raids on the homes of independence activists in the cities of Mayaguez, San German, Rio Piedras and Trujillo Alto. The FBI said it was carrying out an operation against the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, according to national police chief Pedro Toledo, who reported that the FBI didn’t inform the Puerto Rican police until one hour after the raids had started. Five homes and one business were searched on the basis of 23 warrants; sociologist Liliana Laboy and longtime activist Norberto Cintron Fiallo were among the people targeted.

The FBI agents made no arrests, but they handcuffed at least one activist, releasing him after a few hours. WAPA, a radio station, reported that at least one helicopter from the US Department of Homeland Security took part in one of the raids; according to the New York Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa, an armed helicopter hovered over the house of Rafael Cancel Miranda on two occasions. Cancel Miranda served in prison for taking part in an armed attack on the US Congress in 1954, but there was no indication that he was a target of the operation.

The raids, which took place during the daytime, quickly attracted media attention. In Rio Piedras FBI agents fired pepper spray at reporters. At the site of one raid, at least three journalists were injured by pepper spray, and one was thrown to the ground and dragged by agents. (It is unclear whether this was the same as the Rio Piedras incident.) Agents also aimed rifles at journalists during one raid.

Groups began demonstrating in Rio Piedras while the raid there was still under way. “Murderers, murderers,” the protesters chanted, referring to the killing of Macheteros leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by FBI agents on Sept. 23. “I came to watch and see what the FBI murderers are up to now,” one older protester told a reporter, “to see if they are going to kill another Puerto Rican.” In one incident protesters threw rocks at FBI vehicles, injuring an agent. On Feb. 11 students protested the raids with a rally at the University of Puerto Rico; Laboy, Cintron Fiallo, Cancel Miranda and Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, Ojeda Rios’ widow, attended. In another protest, activists burned a US flag outside the Federal Court in San Juan. (Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina,” Feb. 10; El Diario-LaPrensa, NYC, Feb. 10, 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 12

See our last report on Puerto Rico.