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Ojeda honored as liberation fighter

Published Oct 7, 2005 9:51 PM

Since the assassination of independence fighter Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in his home in Puerto Rico by FBI snipers on Sept. 23, the progressive movement there and in the U.S. has responded with many protests, rallies and other actions. At a Workers World Party meeting in New York City on Sept. 30, two Puerto Rican members of the Party gave a historical overview of the island’s long struggle for freedom. Following are brief excerpts from their very informative talks.

Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, Machetero!

Let us remember Filiberto Ojeda Ríos as one of the leaders in the fight for the liberation of Puerto Rico. With his actions he showed that it is not only a struggle for political independence, it is also a class struggle.

Filiberto was born on April 26, 1933, in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, and eventually became a trumpet player. However, he is probably best known as a founding member of the Puerto Rican Workers Revo lutionary Party, which as an armed entity took the name of “Ejercito Popular Boricua-Macheteros” (Boricua Popular Army). In a communique on Oct. 10, 1978, commemorating “El Grito de Jayuya” of 1950, they wrote:

“Our intention is to wage war against the Yankee invader and their proxies, who after 80 years continue trampling on our soil.”

The most daring action of the Mache teros was probably on the morning of Jan. 12, 1981. About 10 U.S. jet fighters worth close to $50 million were destroyed at the Muñiz Air Base in San Juan. This attack on the “Yankee National Guard,” said a Machetero communique, was an “act of revolutionary solidarity” with the people of El Salvador, who were being slaughtered by a U.S.-backed military regime.

However, the capitalists seem to have felt much more hurt by the Wells Fargo robbery on Sept. 12, 1983, in Hartford, Conn., where $7.2 million was liberated for the struggle.

On Oct. 30, 1983, the Macheteros launched an M-72 anti-tank rocket against the Federal Building in Hato Rey, aiming for the FBI office. This was done in “fraternal solidarity with the heroic people of Grenada,” in retaliation for the U.S. invasion of Grenada some days before.

Among many other actions performed by the Macheteros was one in solidarity with the telephone workers’ movement that tried to prevent the giveaway of Puerto Rico’s telephone services to private hands.

The reaction of the people of Puerto Rico to Filiberto’s assassination is to quote the popular phrase: “Todo Boricua Mache tero.” (Every Puerto Rican a Machetero.) Tens of thousands were in the funeral procession for Filiberto. At least once the caravan could not continue because of the multitude of people.

—John Ramírez

WWP’s support for self-determination

On Sept. 23, 1868, the first recorded revolt in Puerto Rico against colonial occupation took place in Lares. This day [the same date as the FBI assassination] has symbolized the Puerto Rican struggle for self-determination, first against colonial occupation by Spain and then, after 1898, colonial occupation by the U.S.

We are kept impoverished by the U.S., which gives welfare incentives to corporations to come to the island tax-free and exploit our resources and our people. Over 60 percent of our population lives under the poverty line. The most recent cowardly act of the U.S. government—to massacre in cold blood Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, leader of the Macheteros, the militant wing of the independence movement, has polarized the population even more by sharpening the contradictions of the colonial status.

In New York City, the unemployment rate for African-American men age 18-40 is 40 percent, for [email protected] is around 30 percent, and for whites is less than 10 percent. It means there is a class war against the working people of the U.S., regardless of race or creed, but the most marginalized are the people of color. How does the multi-national Workers World Party fit into this?

Since its founding in 1959, this Marxist-Leninist party has recognized the right for self-determination of any nation oppres sed by U.S. imperialism. Some believe a nation has to have physical boundaries, like a geographical territory. We believe that a nation of peoples can live within another nation that is oppressing them. That allows the Party to recognize African-Americans as constituting a separate nation, as well as Puerto Ricans.

The Party has unconditionally supported each of these struggles against the oppressor through material aid, participation in protests, and printing each respective nation’s information in the weekly paper.

Since its beginning, the Party newspaper has helped build mass actions against imperialism like the 1976 “Bicentennial Without Colonies” in Philadelphia, the Hartford demonstration to free Puerto Rican political prisoners in 1986, and the struggles in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to stop the U.S. Navy’s use of the island of Vieques for bombing practice.

—Arturo J. Pérez Saad