Puerto Rico: report faults FBI in rebel’s death

The Puerto Rican Civil Rights Commission (CDC) has concluded that the killing of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in September 2005 was illegal and should be investigated, according to people who say they have seen the commission’s 238-page report. The CDC’s conclusions apparently contradict the finding of the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in 2006 that Ojeda, the leader of the rebel Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros, had fired on the FBI agents first and that they were justified in returning fire and in waiting 18 hours after Ojeda was wounded before entering his house to check his condition.

Dated March 31, 2011 but never released publicly, the CDC report is said to confirm accounts that FBI agents started shooting with heavy weapons as soon as they arrived at the house in the western town of Hormigueros where Ojeda was living with his wife, and that the independence leader would not have died from his wounds if he had been given medical attention. But the report’s most explosive revelation is apparently a claim by two police agents who participated in the operation: far from being armed and dangerous when he was shot three times by an FBI sniper identified only as “Brian,” Ojeda was playing music on a trumpet, according to the witnesses.

After the initial shootout, Ojeda negotiated his wife’s release to the FBI. He then negotiated for an hour about his own surrender; it was when these talks stalled that Ojeda, who was a professional musician, reportedly began playing on his trumpet. Luis F. Abreu ElĂ­as, who had been Ojeda’s lawyer, speculated at a Feb. 3 press conference in San Juan that the sniper couldn’t see his target and used the sound of the trumpet to hit Ojeda. Abreu is calling for an international organization like the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate the killing. (Argenpress, Argentina, Jan. 30, from correspondent; Prensa Latina, Feb. 2; Primera Hora, Guaynabo, Feb. 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 12.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.