PR polit. prisoners
James M. Blaut
70671.2032 at SPAMcompuserve.com
Fri Aug 13 06:50:58 MDT 1999
"Possible freedom in September" (translated from the
original Spanish) Wednesday, August 11, 1999 by Leonor
Mulero, El Nuevo Dia Washington: In September, at least the
majority of the 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners could be
free, according to sources near to the process, optimistic
as a result of White House counsel's recommendation to free
almost all of them. Meanwhile, the prisoners' attorney Jan
Susler said that the office of White House counsel told her
that "we are near the end of a very long process." Jeffrey
Farrow, co-chair of the White House Working Group on Puerto
Rico, said that "we are reaching the end," added the
But, in an interview from Chicago, Susler expressed "cautious
optimism. We want to hear directly from the horse's mouth
a response to our petition for their release." The "horse"
is president Bill Clinton.
Jose Serrano, congressman from New York, said that "we are
near something important. I feel a knot in my stomach." He
indicated that "there have been serious conversations at the
level you mentioned." But he warned that "there are still
people opposed to this. I don't know who they are, but
they're out there."
White House counsel Charles Ruff recommended, before leaving
his post, the release of 13 of the 15 Puerto Rican political
prisoners. Ruff left his recommendation in a Memorandum
that would reach president Bill Clinton. Farrow did not
return repeated calls from this paper on Tuesday.
Jim Kennedy, spokesperson from the office of White House
Counsel, said yesterday that the office was not in a
position to make comments on the information in the Memo
from Ruff. "We are not in a position to comment," said
Kennedy. He indicated that, at the appropriate time, the
office would announce its position.
"They should all come out"
While expressing caution, since "we aren't in a position to
say more than should be said," Serrano indicated that the
position of the three Puerto Rican congressional
representatives is that all the political prisoners should
be freed together. The other congressional representatives
are Nydia Velazquez and Luis Gutierrez.
That is Susler's position. "We petitioned Clinton for all 15
political prisoners. There is no way to rationally
discriminate. Them should come home together. This is a
humanitarian issue. We hope he will be generous and
courageous and make a complete act of justice."
Various federal sources trust that at least the majority of
the Puerto Rican political prisoners will be free in
The Puerto Rican city councilman from the Bronx, Jose Rivera,
took up the prisoners with first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton, who expressed this Tuesday that "I understood the
message." Rodham Clinton aspires to be senator for New
Serrano justified asking Rodham Clinton's help with the
freedom of the prisoners and the Navy leaving Vieques. "If
it's reasonable that Jews ask me what I think of the state
of Israel, I think it's correct to ask candidates to federal
posts about Vieques and the political prisoners, and that
their response be a primordial part of the decision whether
or not to support them," said Serrano.
Although he wants all 15 prisoners to come out at the same
time, Serrano is not assuming a position of waiting until
they can all be freed at the same time if the alternative is
offered that some come out before others. "We will keep
working for the others' release," he added.
Communication with the prisoners
Susler was in communication with the prisoners this Tuesday
to discuss the terms of the possible release. Juan Segarra
Palmer, who is held in Coleman, Florida, found out from a
fellow prisoner who, after hearing the news on the radio,
went crying to tell him he wouldn't leave with the others,
said Susler. "What Segarra did was console his fellow
Oscar Lopez Rivera just listened carefully while the attorney
spoke to him. "I told him what you reported (in the
newspaper) and what our sources have said. He showed
incredible integrity, learning" (that they didn't want to
let him go), according to Susler. Lopez Rivera and Segarra
Palmer would not come out, according to Ruff.
As for the version that the White House proposes the freedom
of the political prisoners to encourage a more moderate
position on the presence of the United States Navy in
Vieques, Serrano added that this strategy won't be
"Whoever believes that the congressional representatives are
going be grateful for the freedom of the prisoners and
forget about Vieques is very mistaken," said Serrano.
The president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC),
Manuel Mirabal, wrote this Tuesday to president Bill Clinton
to insist that all the Puerto Rican political prisoners be
released from prison.
"We are profoundly concerned that the recommendation does not
include all the men and women who have already served
between 16 and 19 years of their sentences," said Mirabal.
Ruff recommended, according to the paper, the release of 13
of the 15 independentist prisoners, including the five
women, but recommended that Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is said
to the leader of the Armed Forces for National Liberation
(FALN) and Enrique Segarra Palmer, who is said to be a top
leader of the Popular Boricua Army (Machete Wielders).
The Puerto Rican prisoners are Antonio Camacho Negron, Edwin
Cortes, Elizam Escobar, Ricardo Jimenez, Oscar Lopez Rivera,
Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi, Dylcia Pagan, Alberto Rodriguez,
Alicia Rodriguez, Ida Luz Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Juan Enrique
Segarra Palmer, Alejandrina Torres, Carlos Alberto Torres y
The majority of the offenses for which these people were
convicted were committed at the end of the decade of the
seventies and the beginning of the eighties in Chicago and
other cities in the United States. The majority were
members of the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN).
Segarra Palmer was sentenced for his participation in the
robbery of some $7 million of a security deposit from Wells
Fargo in 1983 in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a member of
the clandestine group Popular Boricua Army--Machete
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