PR political prisoners

James M. Blaut 70671.2032 at SPAMcompuserve.com
Mon Aug 16 04:31:47 MDT 1999



Revised Analysis for Immediate distribution

PUERTO RICAN POLITICAL PRISONERS:  PROBLEMS WITH THE CLINTON
ADMINISTRATION'S OFFER

  1.  The offer does not apply equally to all 15 political
prisoners on  whose behalf the campaign submitted the
petition for unconditional release.   It provides for the
immediate conditional release of 11: Edwin Cortes, Elizam
Escobar, Ricardo Jimenez, Adolfo Matos, Dylcia Pagan, Alberto
Rodriguez,  Alicia Rodriguez, Ida Luz Rodriguez, Luis Rosa,
Alejandrina Torres, Carmen  Valentin; the conditional release
of Juan Segarra Palmer in 5 years and  remittance of his
fine; the conditional release of Oscar Lopez in 10 years;
and no release for Carlos Alberto Torres (who is serving a 70
year sentence).   It also provides no release for Antonio
Camacho Negron, who was already  offered reparole, but does
provide for remittance of his fine.

    2.  The offer is contingent on the prisoners accepting a
series of  conditions. Although the government admits that
the 15 Puerto Rican political  prisoners were given excessive
prison terms for their acts in favor of Puerto  Rican
independence, the conditions they are being asked to accept
as part of  the offer does not, in fact, commute their
sentences.  It simply releases  them from prison to continue
to serve the remainder of their commuted  sentences on the
street.

    3. The White House drafted a document for each prisoner
to sign, agreeing  to the terms of the commutation of their
sentences.  One of the terms  requires them to renounce the
use, attempted use, or advocacy of the use of  violence as a
condition for release.  The prisoners have already made clear
in a collective statement submitted to the U.S. House
Resources Committee, at  the time it was considering the
"Young" bill concerning the status of Puerto  Rico, that they
intend to integrate themselves into the civic and civil life
and legal political process of their communities, that they
understand that  times have changed, and they indicated their
willingness to participate in a  truly democratic, inclusive
process to resolve the colonial status of Puerto  Rico.

    4.  The majority of the conditions which would be imposed
by signing the  document are not made explicit it, but are
simply referred to as the  conditions established by the
Parole Commission. Although the White House did  not provide
us with a list of these conditions, our research reveals that
the  conditions include strict travel and associational
restrictions, among  others.  Should authorities determine
that any violation of conditions  occurs, the "commutation"
would be instantly void, and the original sentence
reinstated. Ironically, the prisoners have more freedom of
speech and, in  some cases where they are housed together,
association, inside the prisons  than they would if they were
released under the conditions attached to the  commutation.
The offer amounts to release on parole, which does not
constitute commutation or clemency.  Furthermore, the
conditions would  interfere with their reintegration into
civil society and the political  process, limiting their
travel and their ability to associate with each other  as
well as with other activists who have been similarly
criminalized.

    5. The offer is punitive. While the campaign's
application for their  release, submitted in 1993, sought
their unconditional release as a  humanitarian gesture and an
act of political reconciliation, the offer stops  short of
releasing them from their sentences, and instead, continues
to  punish and criminalize them for their ongoing commitment
to the independence  of Puerto Rico.

    6.  The prisoners have no ability to discuss the
Administration's offer  with each other.  Their ability to
discuss it with their attorney, families,  and the campaign
which has worked so long for their release is limited in
most cases to what they can afford, since the majority must
pay for their own  telephone calls, and is also limited to
fifteen minute monitored and  automatically terminated calls.
For this reason, their attorney has asked  the White House to
facilitate their placement at the Metropolitan  Correctional
Center in Chicago, Illinois, where they would be able to
confer  with each other and their counsel.

    7. The Clinton/Gore Administration has participated in
many efforts to  free political prisoners throughout the
world, such as in South Africa,  Palestine, the north of
Ireland, and Kosovo, where political prisoners were  freed
without any conditions attached.  In the case of Nelson
Mandela, the  U.S. government demanded his unconditional
release. Mandela, who was  convicted of the same
charge--seditious conspiracy--as the Puerto Rican  political
prisoners, has been the major instrument in democratizing the
South  African political system.

     The Puerto Rican people and their supporters immediately
denounced the  conditions as insulting and demeaning to the
prisoners and to the Puerto  Rican people as a whole.   U.S.
Congressional Representatives Luis V.  Gutierrez, Nydia
Velazquez and Jose Serrano, Reverend Jesse Jackson,
Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Puerto Rican Secretary of
State Norma  Burgos, Puerto Rican Democratic Party President
William Miranda, New York  City Councilman Jose Rivera, the
National Puerto Rican Coalition, the Puerto  Rican Legal
Defense and Education Fund, and a host of others have already
publicly expressed their strong sentiments and urged the
Clinton/Gore  Administration to release all the prisoners
unconditionally.

August 14, 1999









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