On Sept. 26 Puerto Rican governor Anibal Acevedo Vila told reporters that US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller had ordered an inquiry into the fatal Sept. 23 shooting of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by FBI agents in the western town of Homigueros. The announcement came as questions grew about how and why Ojeda Rios died when FBI agents assaulted the farmhouse where he was living, ostensibly to arrest him for his role in a 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut.
Ojeda, the leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, was convicted for the $7.2 million robbery in 1992 [not in 1990, as we previously reported], but he had jumped bail in 1990 and successfully eluded the authorities until FBI agents staked out his house on Sept. 20 of this year.
“The FBI is lying,” Ojeda’s widow, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, told a press conference in San Juan on Sept. 26. “They are lying as they have always lied.” Rosado, who was present during the incident, said there were about 100 FBI agents and that they were the first to shoot. “I heard Filiberto shout: ‘I’ll turn myself in to the reporter Jesus Davila,'” Rosada said, referring to the Puerto Rico correspondent of the Spanish-language New York daily El Diario-La Prensa. “[L]ater [the agents] blindfolded me, and in that moment I felt in my heart–I knew–that they were going to murder him.” One FBI agent was reportedly wounded in the incident.
According to a preliminary autopsy, Ojeda received a single gunshot wound in the lung; it came from above, probably from a sharpshooter. The autopsy indicated that the wound was not lethal and that Ojeda bled to death during the 20 hours the FBI refused to allow anyone to enter the house, supposedly while waiting for explosives experts. On Sept. 24 Luis Fraticelli, special FBI agent in charge of Puerto Rico, told reporters he had been in contact with his superiors in Washington “all night” while the agents were barring access to the building. (New York Times, Sept. 27 from AP; El Diaro-La Prensa, NYC, Sept. 25, 26, 27, 29 from correspondent)
The assault occurred on the anniversary of the Grito de Lares [“Cry of Lares”], a Sept. 23, 1868 uprising against Spanish rule in the western town of Lares. Starting on Sept. 11 Ojeda had scored what commentators called a “propaganda coup” by getting at least two San Juan stations–WQBS Radio and Canal 30 de Television–to play a recorded message calling for people to commemorate the date. The stations ran the 10-minute tape every hour for several days. (Resumen Latinoamericano/Diario de Urgencia No. 63, Sept. 18 from El
Diaro-La Prensa, Sept. 16)
In one of the largest funerals in Puerto Rican history, more than 1,000 cars joined the cortege as Ojeda’s body was driven from San Juan to a cemetery in the eastern town of Naguabo on Sept. 27. The burial included the reading of a communique from the new Machetero leader, “Commander Guasabara,” who called for justice for Ojeda and said “the struggle will continue until the accursed Yankees leave our country’s soil.” (ED-LP, Sept. 28)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 2
See our last post on the Ojeda Rios case.