Boricua Popular Army

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The Boricua Popular Army —or Ejército Popular Boricua in Spanish— is a clandestine organization based on the island of Puerto Rico, with cells throughout the United States. They campaign for and support the independence of Puerto Rico from what they characterize as United States colonial rule.

Although the group has claimed responsibility for numerous armed robberies and bombings since 1978, and is still led by Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a former FBI Most Wanted Fugitive, they have refocused their resources and networks to political, information and enforcement support for the general independence and nationalist movement.

Also known as Los Macheteros (or 'The Machete Wielders' in English) and 'Puerto Rican Popular Army', their active membership of mostly Puerto Rican men and women have swelled to over 1100 (as of January 2005), with an unknown number of supporters, sympathizers, collaborators and informants, with cells (usually consisting of 6 to 10 members) in the United States and other countries.

Members of this group are called Macheteros (plural) or Machetero (singular).

Contents

Background

Los Macheteros were organized in the 1970s by Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, Juan Enrique Segarra Palmer and Orlando Gonzalez Claudio. The group began in 1976, but it can trace its origins back to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).

Upon its beginnings, the group attracted a wide variety of Puerto Ricans, including members of:

It should be noted that only some members of the above groups support the Macheteros ideology. For example, the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) has a similar political ideology but they follow protocol of the insular political system, based on the Commonwealth laws established in 1952.

Notable acts / incidents

1970s

In January 2, 1977 one day after Carlos Romero Barcelo, a statehood advicate, was sworn in as Governor of Puerto Rico, two bombs were placed at an ROTC building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The bombs were successfully destroyed by the police, but the Macheteros took responsibility for the incident.

1980s

In a January 1981 attack, Macheteros commandos infiltrated a Puerto Rican Air National Guard base and blew up 11 planes, causing approximately $45 million in damages.

However, their most famous act (likely because it took place in the U.S., and it directly dealt with money) was a Wells Fargo depot robbery of approximately $7 million in West Hartford, Connecticut (USA) on September 12, 1983. The group's code name for the robbery was "White Eagle" (or "Águila Blanca" in Spanish).

After the robbery, the Macheteros threw some of the robbed money to the air from high floor buildings and kept the remaining sum to fund the robbery operation. It was a symbolic protest against the “greed-infested men and mechanisms which strain our elected officials, government agencies, and social aspirations in this country, as well as in Puerto Rico,” according to a written statement from the Macheteros.

By Puerto Rican, American, and international laws the act was considered as terrorist due to the way it was executed and the experience suffered by the Wells Fargo security guards.

The United States FBI charges for this robbery include: Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Robbery of Federally Insured Bank Funds, Armed Robbery, and Conspiracy to Interfere With Commerce By Robbery.

See also: White Eagle: the Wells Fargo depot robbery.

1990s

In the 1990s Los Macheteros claimed responsibility on a bomb explosion that occurred in a small power station in the Puerto Rican metropolitan area. The explosion damages left some Puerto Ricans without electricity.

In that same decade, the group also vandalized a new fleet of government vans and trucks that were parked in a government facility. The damages left the automobiles non-operative.

Terrorists or Puerto Rican patriots?

According to the U.S. Government, Los Macheteros are considered terrorists for the methods they have employed to further their agenda. While some Puerto Ricans consider Los Macheteros to be terrorists and unpatriotic, there are many 'quiet' sympathizers who think of Los Macheteros as soldiers of the poor and working class people of the island.

A growing number of people believe that Puerto Rico's 'inability' to sustain itself was designed by the U.S. Government, 'corporate America,' and Puerto Rico's own upper class and industrial leaders in order to create a perpetual consumer base for U.S. and foreign products and services (Foreign products and services are redirected to Puerto Rico and other ‘unincorporated’ lands of the United States to satisfy a portion of foreign trade agreements, while allowing domestic products and services greater “home” market share). Supporters of independence in Puerto Rico polls are a small electoral minority (under 10%) when status plebiscites are held.

However, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), following the lead of what the was doing throughout Latin America, infiltrated Puerto Rico's free press and political circles in the latter part of the twentieth century in order to disrupt all efforts related to the independence movement. This operation was part of COINTELPRO. More can be read on on this Web site (http://www.pr-secretfiles.net), created with the assistance of Congressmember José Serrano (http://www.house.gov/serrano/) and the City University of New York's Center for Puerto Rican Studies (http://www.centropr.org/).

The Macheteros claim (and many historians agree) that part of the reason for their formation and actions was to defend Puerto Rico's legal process and political evolution from US Government intervention.

Other supporters of the independence movement argue that the Macheteros are just a continuity of the hundred years clandestine war Puerto Ricans have fought against United States policies in the island, such as the Culebra and Vieques bombing range; the disproportionate number of military bases (compared to states in the Union); the population control experiments of the 1960s (where a third of all women in Puerto Rico were sterilized); the FBI and CIA assassinations of independence and nationalist leaders (including the alleged murder of Dr. Pedro Albízu Campos, by means of radiation experiments while he was incarcerated); the infamous Dr. Rhoades cancer "treatments", during which Doctor Cornelius P. Rhoades admitted to killing Puerto Rican patients and injecting cancer cells to many as part of a medical investigation conducted in San Juan's Presbyterian Hospital for the Rockefeller Institute; secret testing of Agent Orange on Puerto Rican soil; and other incidents.

As a 'terrorist' group, Los Macheteros have claimed the least amount of innocent/civilian lives when compared to most paramilitary, terrorist or other organized insurgency groups of its kind, type, size and history (according to U.S. Federal documents). They claim to regard the U.S. working class with as much respect as to their own people (although, technically, they are considered U.S. citizens as well). They claim that their 'war' is with the U.S. Government policies and politicians that continue to exploit the people and resources of Puerto Rico (also known as 'Borinquen,' or 'Boriken, from the original Taino -- native Indians of the Caribbean language), an island with a population comparable to the Republic of Ireland, but just over an eighth its size. Although most Puerto Ricans reject violence as a political means, many believe that the economic and political exploitation and oppression of Puerto Rico continues to fuel the activities of many insurgent groups.

Also, many political groups opposed to U.S. dominion of Puerto Rico agree that the U.S. invasion and occupation during the Spanish-American War in 1898 was illegal and unjustified, just like many other U.S. military operations throughout Latin America in the 20th century. Although there were Spanish troops in the island, Puerto Rico had been granted a form of sovereignty from the Spanish Crown months before the USS Maine incident in Cuba, which the United States used as grounds to declare war against Spain.

Famous group members

Name Remarks
Antonio Camacho Negron released from imprisonment by Bill Clinton's clemency
Filiberto Ojeda Ríos co-founder

current leader

former FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives
Juan Enrique Segarra Palmer co-founder
Orlando Gonzalez Claudio co-founder
Victor Manuel Gerena former FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives
inside man for the Wells Cargo depot robbery

References

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (USA).FBI Fugitive Profile: Filiberto Ojeda Rios (http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/fugitive/nov2003/novrios.htm) (2003). United States of America.
  2. Federal Bureau of Investigation (USA).FBI Fugitive Profile: Victor Manuel Gerena (http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/topten/fugitives/gerena.htm). United States of America.

See also

External links

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