Tlahui-Politic. No. 8, II/1999

12 de los presos firman por su libertad
12 Puerto Rico Dissidents OK Deal
12 Puerto Ricans Accept Clinton Clemency Offer
Puerto Rico prisoners accept clemency

Información enviada a Mario Rojas, Director de Tlahui. Puerto Rico, a 8 de Septiembre, 1999. update 9/8/99.

Chicago Sun Times
Terrorists accept clemency
September 8, 1999

The 11 FALN prisoners eligible for immediate release accepted President Clinton's conditional offer of clemency on Tuesday, with one more inmate agreeing to the same terms to be released in five years.

The impending release of the Puerto Rican nationalists marks "an unprecendented historic moment," said lawyer Jan Susler, who represents 15 FALN inmates, including two who turned down Clinton's offer and another who was not granted any leniency.

The clemency offer created the first major crisis in the expected New York Senate campaign of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. She had called upon her husband to withdraw the offer, providing fodder for New York Republicans who objected to the prisoners' release.

"It is a tragic day that these terrorists may soon be walking America's streets again," said Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.).

Susler said the same campaign that pushed for the release of the FALN prisoners--a coalition of political, legal, civil rights and religious groups--will continue to press for a deal to free those left behind. President Clinton had set a Friday deadline for the offer, which had become increasingly controversial since he made it Aug. 11.

Eight of the 11 to be immediately released--the exact date is to be determined by the Bureau of Prisons--originally were from Chicago. The lawyers and family members said they expected only two to return to Chicago to live, Alejandrina Torres and Alberto Rodríguez.

If Alberto Rodriguez gets out of prison before the weekend, "his immediate plan was to take in his son's football game," said his brother, Pedro. Rodriguez has been incarcerated since 1983, shortly after the birth of his son, Ricardo, now a junior at Lane Technical High School who plays varsity football, said Pedro Rodriguez.

"I am happy, very happy that they are coming home," said Josefina Rodríguez, the mother of sisters Ida Luz and Alicia Rodriguez, who have been serving their time in the same California prison. "I am sad because their compañeras [friends] are being left behind."

Ida Luz Rodriguez, who is serving a 75-year sentence, defended her past actions in a prison interview Tuesday with a San Francisco television station. She said members of the group considered themselves patriots, not terrorists.

"I guess if George Washington would have lost to the English, history would have treated him as a terrorist," she said.

Oscar Lopez declined the president's offer, which still would have him left with 10 years to serve on conspiracy to escape charges.

Now he faces at least 20 more years in prison. His sister, Zenaida López, said he turned the offer down because he would be on parole. "Accepting what they are offering him is like prison outside of prison," she said.

Zenaida Lopez said her brother "was in total agreement" with the decision of the 11 others to take the conditional clemency.

Antonio Camacho Negron also refused to sign the agreement because he had only a few years left to serve on his sentence, Susler said. Juan Enrique Segara-Palmer will be released in five years, with portions of his 20-year sentence left intact. No leniency was granted to Carlos Torres, whom prosecutors described as the leader of FALN.

The prisoners and their supporters hesitated to accept the deal because they were granted parole, which restricts their activities and puts them under the supervision of a parole officer, instead of the commutation they had sought. The 12 inmates each signed a one-page, five-paragraph document sent to the White House on Tuesday in which they requested clemency. They renounced the "use, threatened use or advocacy of the use" of violence for any purpose, including concerning the status of Puerto Rico; acknowledged they could not posses a weapon or "destructive device," and said they would abide by the conditions imposed by the Parole Commission.

Susler and Deutsch said the prisoners feared harassment from law enforcement agencies that objected to the release. Deutsch said lawyer groups in the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico will monitor law enforcement efforts.

The inmates were "convicted of serious crimes, but not of maiming and killing," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. They belonged to FALN--the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation--which was responsible for 28 building bombings in Chicago between 1975 and 1979. The prisoners have been incarcerated since the 1980s on charges that included seditious conspiracy and illegal possession of weapons and explosives.

Reaction was mixed in the Puerto Rican neighborhood near Humboldt Park over the clemency deal and whether the prisoners would abide by conditions of the deal.

Juana Maciel, 16, said she didn't agree with their violent actions, but she believes it's now in their past. "If they did anything at all, they paid their price," Maciel said.

Rafael Cedno, 72, said he opposed their release and called terrorism a cowardly act. "They should be in handcuffs in their cell," Cedno said. "I can't see anybody who attacks America in such a way."

Contributing: Carlos Sadovi, Associated Press

Chicago Tribune

12 jailed FALN members take U.S. clemency deal

By Julie Deardorff
Tribune Staff Writer
September 8, 1999

Swayed by the chance for freedom and by emotional pleas from family members, 12 jailed Puerto Rican nationalists accepted President Clinton's controversial offer of clemency and conditional release Tuesday, a lawyer for the group said.

Eleven of the prisoners will be released shortly, although an exact date remains to be determined by the federal government. A 12th will serve five more years in prison before he is granted a conditional release, the group's attorney said.

Two other members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican independence movement, rejected the president's offer.

By signing the papers three days before a Friday deadline set by the White House, the 12 men and women linked to a spree of guerrilla activities in Chicago and across the country more than 20 years ago agreed to renounce violence and abide by travel and parole restrictions.

Their Chicago attorney, Jan Susler, said they still have a fervent desire to see Puerto Rico a sovereign nation. Indeed, she said, that was one of the motivating factors for accepting the deal.

"They felt they could do more by being out on the street and integrating into society," Susler said.

"Prison has not dampened their love for their country," she said. "They are political beings.... They are like fish out of water. They want to jump back in the water and swim."

Overjoyed, incredulous family members packed into a cramped room in Susler's Wicker Park office for the announcement, but they also expressed concern that their relatives will be unduly harassed by the government once they are released.

Susler and colleague Michael Deutsch stressed they will fight to ensure the FBI and other law enforcement agencies do not target their clients. They have enlisted help from watchdog groups, including the National Lawyers Guild and the Human Rights Commission of the Puerto Rican Bar Association.

From the outset, Susler and relatives of the prisoners have said they were unhappy with the conditions set by the government. But on Tuesday she said the prisoners have agreed to abide by them.

One of the conditions of clemency is that the prisoners will be released on parole and would not be allowed to associate with a anyone with a criminal record without permission from their parole officers. This even means not talking to each other, which in some cases means relatives.

Sisters Lucy and Alicia Rodriguez grew up in Chicago and were arrested in Evanston in 1980. They have been in a northern California jail for almost two decades.

"I'm very happy they are coming home, but the conditions worry me," their mother, Josefina, said at Susler's office. "They are sisters, and I don't know if they will be able to come together.

"But whatever the problem is, I'm ready to deal with it. For 20 years we have been dealing with a lot of problems."

In addition, travel will be severely restricted and the former prisoners will be banned from associating with other independence leaders.

Responding to the agreement, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said, "The president expects all those who accept the conditional clemency grant to abide fully by its terms."

Each of the FALN members was convicted during the early 1980s of seditious conspiracy and related charges. They received sentences ranging from 55 to 90 years.

The 11 political prisoners who will be released soon are Edwin Cortes, Ricardo Jimenez, Dylcia Pagan, Lucy Rodriguez, Alicia Rodriguez, Carmen Valentin, Luis Rosa, Alejandrina Torres, Elizam Escobar, Alberto Rodriguez and Adolfo Matos.

Juan Segarra Palmer will serve five more years in prison before he is granted conditional clemency.

Two prisoners did not sign the agreement: Oscar Lopez Rivera has an additional 10 years remaining on his sentence; and Antonio Comacho Negron, who was paroled last year but returned to jail after violating the terms of his release. A 15th member of the group, Carlos Alberto Torres, was not offered clemency and will serve the remainder of a 70-year sentence. "I knew (his decision) when we spoke on the phone and I brought up the conditions. He said they were ridiculous and didn't want to discuss it," Oscar Lopez's sister, Zenaida, who owns a Humboldt Park bakery and cafe, said at the news conference Tuesday. "It's not that my brother is a violent person. He just feels accepting the offer would be like prison outside of prison.

"But he respects with all his heart the decision made by the others. Of course I want him here, but when they write the story of Puerto Rico, he will be on every page of the book."

Clinton's offer of clemency, made Aug. 11, instantly insulted and angered law enforcement groups who consider the Puerto Ricans terrorists.

The clemency offer also caused divisions within the White House when Hillary Clinton, a potential candidate for a Senate seat from New York, urged her husband to rescind the proposal. President Clinton also came under fire from critics who said the offer was designed to help his wife collect votes among New York's 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

"It is a tragic day that terrorists may very soon again be allowed to walk America's streets," said Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.), who has become one of the leading Republican spokesmen on the issue.

But supporters of the FALN members, including human rights advocates, church leaders and politicians, argued they were punished too severely in light of their crimes. None of them had prior convictions and none of them was convicted of murder or of causing physical injury.

The FALN, the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation, took part in dozens of bombings on political and military targets in the U.S. between 1974 and 1983, including several Loop locations. It was responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries, according to authorities.

Tribune staff writer Naftali Bendavid contributed to this report.

12 de los presos firman por su libertad
Martes, 7 de septiembre de 1999

Por Leonor Mulero
El Nuevo Día

WASHINGTON - La Casa Blanca confirmó que 12 presos políticos puertorriqueños firmaron este martes el documento de aceptación de la clemencia condicionada, con lo cual 11 presos deberán estar en la libre comunidad en uno o dos días, y otro en cinco años.

Como El Nuevo Día había anticipado, los 11 presos con opción de salir de prisión de inmediato firmaron el documento en el que solicitan la clemencia, se comprometen a renunciar a la violencia y a acogerse a las condiciones de Libertad bajo Palabra. El duodécimo preso, Juan Enrique Segarra Palmer, aceptó las condiciones para salir en cinco años y la anulación de su multa. La firma de la controversial oferta de clemencia condicionada que hizo el presidente Bill Clinton a miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) y El Ejército Popular Boricua (Los Macheteros) se produjo exactamente 20 años después de aquel día de 1979 en que el presidente Jimmy Carter indultó sin condiciones a los nacionalistas puertorriqueños Lolita Lebrón, Irving Flores, Rafael Cancel Mirand y Oscar Collazo. Los primeros tres tirotearon el Congreso y el cuarto a la Casa Blair, entonces residencia del presidente Harry S. Truman.

Los congresistas Luis Gutiérrez y Nydia Velázquez recibieron con respeto y alegría la decisión de los presos. "Teníamos que pelear por las mejores condiciones. Pero cuando uno ve que ya no hay más alternativas y el debate es usurpado por la política-partidista, había que pedirles que salieran. Yo no quería que se convirtieran en mártires. Ellos tienen mucho que aportar afuera", dijo Gutiérrez.

La Casa Blanca dijo que la abogada de los presos, Jan Susler, informó que iban a firmar el documento antes de las 5:00 de la tarde, en presencia de un testigo del Negociado de Prisiones.

Saldrán luego de la entrega del documento original

Los 11 presos que pueden salir de inmediato lo harán luego de que las autoridades en Washington reciban el documento original. Este se envió este martes por correo expreso, dijo el congresista Gutiérrez.

"El Presidente espera que todos los que aceptaron la oferta de clemencia condicionada cumplan todos los terminos de estas, incluso el abstenerse de usar o fomentar el uso de la violencia para cualquier propósito y obedecer todas las condiciones de ley de libertad bajo palabra", señaló la Casa Blanca. Los 11 presos que quedarán libres en estos días son las hermanas Alicia e Ida Luz Rodríguez, quienes cumplían 90 y 75 años de prisión, respectivamente; Elizam Escobar, sentenciado a 68 años; Ricardo Jiménez, sentenciado a 90 años; Adolfo Matos, sentenciado a 78 años; Dylcia Pagán, sentenciada a 63 años; Luis Rosa, sentenciado a 75 años; Carmen Valentín, sentenciada a cumplir hasta el 2043; Alberto Rodríguez, sentenciado a 35 años; Alejandrina Torres, sentenciada a cumplir hasta el 2004; y Edwin Cortés, sentenciado a 35 años.

Preocupado Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez expresó preocupación por la seguridad de los presos y recomendó que la mayoría viva en Puerto Rico, donde contarán con una red de apoyo. La mayoría, a pesar de ser de Chicago, se dirige hacia la Isla. "Ir a Nueva York o Chicago no es sensato", dijo.

En estas semanas de debate intenso, los presos estaban ansiosos, escudriñando con detenimiento el documento, en un proceso muy doloroso y difícil, dijo Gutiérrez, quien habló ayer por teléfono con Valentín, Matos y Pagán. "Se la pasaron pensándolo, leyendo el documento de la A a la Z y de la Z a la A", dijo Gutiérrez.

"Hacía 20 años que yo no hablaba con Carmen Valentín. Imagínate mi emoción", dijo el congresista que lideró la lucha por la excarcelación en Washington. Los presos se desbordaron en frases de agradecimiento.

La Casa Blanca confirmó también que dos presos no aceptarían la oferta de clemencia. Esos son Oscar López Rivera, quien pasó 10 de sus 70 años de condena en solitaria y se negó a aceptar la reducción de sentencia a 10 años adicionales. López Rivera alega que se le acusó falsamente de conspirar para huir de prisión, con lo cual se le añadieron 15 años a su condena.

Tampoco aceptó Antonio Camacho Negrón, sentenciado a 15 años. Este preso fue puesto en libertad bajo palabra en 1998, pero fue regresado a prisión en tres semanas por negarse a reportarse al oficial probatorio. Camacho Negrón rechazó la oferta de conmutación de su multa de $100,000. Saldría en libertad en el 2002.

Norman Rodríguez Talavera y Roberto Maldonado Rivera, quienes cumplieron sus sentencias de cárcel, tienen hasta el viernes para aceptar la conmutación de sus multas. Se espera que las acepten.

12 Puerto Ricans Accept Clinton Clemency Offer
8.40 p.m. ET (044 GMT) September 7, 1999

WASHINGTON - Twelve jailed members of a Puerto Rican pro-independence guerrilla group Tuesday accepted a clemency offer from President Clinton that has become a political minefield for his wife, likely Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Puerto Ricans were members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish acronym FALN. U.S. authorities say the FALN was behind a series of 130 bomb attacks on American political and military targets between 1974 and 1983.

"We have been informed by the counsel for 12 individuals to whom the president granted conditional clemency that they are expected to sign the statement agreeing to all conditions of the clemency grant," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

Clinton originally offered clemency to 16 people, but two members were not expected to accept the terms, which included the renunciation of violence, said Lockhart. Two others, who are not in jail, have until Friday to respond, he said.

The clemency offer has erupted into a political issue for Mrs Clinton, who is an all-but-declared candidate for a Senate seat in New York where there is a large Hispanic community.

Republican critics suspected the president was trying to help his wife gain popularity, prompting Mrs. Clinton to abruptly announce Saturday that she opposed her husband's Aug. 11 offer and that it should be dropped because the members had not responded. That same day, the White House set a Friday deadline for the group to reply.

Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mrs Clinton, said Tuesday the first lady's position had not changed.

"What she says is she stands by her statement. She stands by her statement," Wolfson said.

Mrs. Clinton now faces the prospect of losing traditional Hispanic support for Democrats if she runs in New York against the likely candidacy of New York City's Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani opposed the clemency offer and has criticized Mrs. Clinton's stand on the issue.

"Candidate Hillary Clinton joins her opponent in reading the issue only through the prism of her political needs," said New York Democrat Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx.

"I am disappointed. I am angry," the Puerto Rican-born congressman said, adding that he was rethinking his support of Mrs. Clinton.

At a news conference in New York, 14 Puerto Rican elected officials condemned what they called the use of the clemency offer in "partisan politics."

"The use of this... in a highly charged race is wrong and premature," said Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

He said that Mrs. Clinton had called him over the weekend to discuss her stance. "I told her she made a huge mistake."

In Chicago, Josefina Rodriguez, mother of Lucy and Alicia Rodriguez, two members of the group who are jailed in California, also complained that the fate of the Puerto Rican nationalists had become "dirty politics."

"It's all politics, and to me its dirty politics... After almost 20 years we don't want these prisoners to be part of a dirty political debate" she told a news conference.

The Puerto Ricans, who were jailed on weapons, sedition and conspiracy convictions had been reluctant to accept the terms which bar them from associating with one another.

Among other conditions for their release, which could come as soon as the end of this week, the group must sign a document renouncing violence or advocating its use.

Jan Susler, a lawyer working for the prisoners, told the Chicago news conference that a task force would be formed to make sure those who are released are not harassed or intimidated by the FBI.

"We have taken it upon ourselves to mobilize protection," she said. "They're still very committed to independence. Everyone has said they want to be involved (in Puerto Rico's future). They are political beings."

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the 12 jailed FALN were hailed as heroes in the struggle to free the Caribbean island from the U.S. government.

"We will receive them as heroes but we are also receiving them with the spirit to put them to work," Noel Colon, an attorney and Puerto Rican independence advocate, told a news conference in San Juan.

Associated Press story from

12 Puerto Rico Dissidents OK Deal
By ANNE GEARAN Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Twelve of 14 jailed Puerto Rican nationalists agreed Tuesday to a politically sensitive clemency deal offered by President Clinton but opposed by his wife, prospective Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Puerto Ricans, jailed on weapons and sedition convictions, are members of pro-independence guerrilla groups that carried out a wave of bombings in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.

The nearly month-old offer is conditioned on statements from each independence activist pledging not to engage in violence if released. The activists had until Friday to take or leave the deal.

Two imprisoned activists are expected to reject the clemency offer, the White House said. Two others, who are not in jail, have another week to respond. If they agree to the White House terms, their fines will be reduced.

"The president expects all those who accept the conditional clemency grant to abide fully but its terms, including refraining from the use of advocacy of the use of violence for any purpose and obeying all the statutory conditions of parole," White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said in a statement.

At a news conference in San Juan, activist leader Luis Nieves Falcon confirmed that 11 members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation and one leader of the Macheteros separatist group had accepted the three-week-old offer even though it required them to formally renounce violence and agree not to associate with felons.

"The conditions are terrible," said Deadina Ortiz, mother of New York City art teacher Elizam Escobar, who has been in jail in Oklahoma for 19 years. "Clinton's crazy. How can somebody say, for example, that two sisters can't see each other just because of their beliefs? However, I think it's enough. ... And it's time for him to come home to me."

Zenaida Lopez, whose brother, Oscar Lopez Rivera, is serving a 55-year sentence and is one of the two prisoners who didn't sign the agreement, said: "He feels that renouncing violence, accepting what they are offering, is like a prison without a prison."

The Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish initials FALN, carried out more than 100 bombings in the United States between 1974 and 1983. The bombings killed six and wounded dozens. The imprisoned nationalists were not convicted in any of the bombings but were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and possession of weapons and explosives.

The clemency offer has divided the first family and brought criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

"I think there have been many who have sought to inject politics, and many who have thought to inject a motive here, and all I can say is that they're wrong," Lockhart said at his daily briefing for reporters.

Mrs. Clinton, a potential candidate for a Senate seat from New York, has urged the president to rescind the proposal. "It's been three weeks and their silence speaks volumes," the first lady said over the weekend.

Republican critics and some law enforcement officials asserted the president's clemency offer was originally designed to help his wife win votes among New York's 1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

Lockhart sidestepped a question about whether White House strategy had backfired, and noted that a clemency deal was under discussion long before Mrs. Clinton began considering the 2000 Senate race.

Some Democrats, including the senator Mrs. Clinton would replace, Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, have called the clemency deal a bad idea. Now that Mrs. Clinton has spoken out, Democrats who cheered the clemency deal are calling her a turncoat.

"I am disappointed. I am angry," said Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said. "And frankly, I view her and her candidacy differently after reading reports of her comments and actions. I would be a hypocrite if I did not."

Howard Wolfson, spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's exploratory campaign, said the first lady "understands that her friends feel very strongly about this issue, but she stands by her statement."

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., complained that the attention paid to Mrs. Clinton's statement distracted attention from serious discussion of the prisoners' cases and their cause.

"She is on a listening tour, isn't she?" Velazquez asked at a Manhattan news conference. "I would advise her strongly to continue, and to come to our community to see what the issues are."

Mrs. Clinton called a summer of campaign-style visits to New York cities and towns a listening tour.

Velazquez said she got a call from the White House attempting to further explain Mrs. Clinton's position. Velazquez was asked if the call was an attempt to apologize, explain or clarify Mrs. Clinton's statement.

"All of the above," she replied.

AP-NY-09-07-99 2015EDT
12 Puerto Ricans Accept Clinton Clemency Offer
By Anthony Boadle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twelve jailed members of a Puerto Rican pro-independence guerrilla group have accepted President Clinton's offer of clemency that includes a renunciation of violence, the White House said Tuesday.

The Puerto Ricans were members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN in its Spanish acronym, which fought for independence for the Caribbean island, a U.S. commonwealth territory.

U.S. authorities say the FALN was responsible for a series of 130 bomb attacks on U.S. political and military targets between 1974 and 1983.

"We have been informed by the counsel for 12 individuals to whom the president granted conditional clemency that they are expected to sign the statement agreeing to all conditions of the clemency grant," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

Clinton originally offered clemency to 16, but two members are not expected to accept the terms, said Lockhart. Two others, who are not in jail, have until Friday to respond, he said.

Among the conditions for their release, the group must sign a document renouncing violence or advocating its use. They will also be subject to other parole conditions.

The Puerto Ricans had been reluctant to accept these conditions which bar them from associating with one another.

But Hispanic politicians recommended that the Puerto Ricans accept the terms after the presidential clemency offer blew up into a political issue in first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's potential campaign for a New York Senate seat.

Republican critics suspected the president was trying to help his wife gain popularity in New York, which has a large Hispanic community, particularly from Puerto Rico.

Mrs. Clinton, reacting to the criticism, abruptly announced Saturday that her husband's Aug. 11 offer should be dropped because the members had not responded. That was same day the White House set a Friday deadline for the group to reply.

The first lady now stands to lose the traditional Hispanic support for the Democrats if she runs in New York against the likely candidacy of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who also opposed the president's clemency offer.

"Candidate Hillary Clinton joins her opponent in reading the issue only through the prism of her political needs," said New York Democrat Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx.

"I am disappointed. I am angry," said the Puerto Rican-born congressman said.

Serrano said he was rethinking his support or Mrs. Clinton.

At a news conference held in New York just before the White House announcement, 14 Puerto Rican elected officials from New York condemned what they called the use of the clemency offer in "partisan politics."

"The use of this as a partisan political issue in a highly charged race is wrong and premature," said Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

Ferrer said that Mrs. Clinton had called him over the weekend to discuss her stance. "I told her she made a huge mistake," he said.

BBC newswires
World: Americas
Puerto Rico prisoners accept clemency

The acceptance of the clemency offer is announced in San Juan

By Paul Reynolds in Washington

Twelve Puerto Rican prisoners jailed for a series of bomb attacks have accepted an offer of clemency from President Clinton.

The 12 are members of the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN), an armed group seeking independence for the Caribbean island, which is a commonwealth within the United States.

Another four prisoners have declined to accept the offer of clemency.

Divisions in the Clinton household The 12 involved - some of whom have spent 19 years in jail - have told their lawyers that they are willing to sign a pledge of non-violence in return for their freedom.

An international campaign was organised on their behalf, and President Clinton's clemency offer was justified by the White House in that context.

There have been claims that he was trying to help his wife's expected campaign to be elected as senator from New York - home to many Puerto Ricans.

But this theory was undermined when Mrs Clinton declared that the clemency offer should be withdrawn.

It had run into tremendous opposition from the Republicans and from law enforcement agencies.

The result is that the Clintons have been left looking divided on an important policy issue.

Puerto Ricans are American citizens, though they do not have the right to vote in US elections.

Referendums have confirmed its people's preference for this halfway house status.

September 7, 1999 First Lady's Minuet on Clemency Issue is Tricky Related news: Puerto Rican Prisoners' Fight for Freedom Comes To an End By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE (c) 1999 New York Times News Service WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 1999 Hillary Rodham Clinton is finding herself with the same problem as Vice President Al Gore. Both feel the need to distance themselves from President Clinton, but neither has quite figured out how far to go, or how close is too close. Mrs. Clinton's statement on Saturday that her husband should withdraw his offer of clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists shows that the strange intermingling of interests between a president and a first lady seeking her own political office is hardly a complete advantage. Her statement, issued by her exploratory campaign even as she and the president vacationed at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, shows that she knows this, and is searching for the proper distance. But how much of this whole episode, which the president has yet to discuss publicly, was calculated with him in their private hours? And is the distancing by Mrs. Clinton (and Gore) part of Clinton's determination to see the election of those whose loyalty helped him survive politically? At his last news conference, which was held in July, Clinton gave license to both Mrs. Clinton and Gore to disagree with him. And earlier, he suggested in June that such separations would probably not be accidental.

When he was asked about his reaction to Gore's announcing his presidential candidacy when Clinton was out of the country, Clinton said: "Very often, you'd be amazed how many times over the last 6 1/2 years, we have planned for certain announcements to be made by the vice president when I was out of the country, because that way it gets - I mean, far be it for us to try to maneuver the press - but he gets better coverage." The president's offer of clemency on Aug. 11 for the Puerto Ricans raised questions about whether he made the offer to help his wife, who seems all but certain to run for the Senate from New York, to curry favor with New York's 1.3 million Puerto Ricans. The offer prompted outrage from a wide range of people, including law-enforcement officers and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Democrat whom Mrs. Clinton seeks to replace. Clinton's action may have hurt his wife's campaign more than helped it, and on Saturday she released a statement from Camp David, where the couple was vacationing in private after their more public vacation in New York last week, saying the president should immediately withdraw his offer. That, in turn, set off its own firestorm of criticism on Sunday among many of New York City's prominent Hispanic residents. As it happened, the administration said it had already told the prisoners' lawyers that they had until 5 p.m. on Sept. 10 to accept the offer and renounce the further use of violence. On the clemency issue, Jay Severin, a Republican political consultant in New York, said: "This is Clinton calculus to a T. He makes the gesture, she waits, samples public opinion, then ascends the stage to say no. It is one example in what will be a continuing series." He added: "The White House is helping to position her. It's like she's a sailing vessel and the White House is the wind; we don't see it, but it's there pushing her." Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, it is Clinton who has defined many of the perceptions about her. "The problem for Mrs. Clinton," said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy at New York University, "is that she's running for the Senate of New York on the record of his presidency. She's never held office." Mrs. Clinton has already taken several positions at odds with those of the White House, favoring an increase in Medicaid payments to New York's teaching hospitals, the establishment of a Palestinian state and the moving of the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. The New York electorate is notoriously fractionalized and ethnically diverse, and candidates usually campaign by courting various constituencies. But Mrs. Clinton's target audience, Severin suggested, is not only a particular interest group - Puerto Ricans, say, or Jews. It is also the broad swath of independent suburban voters who may decide the election. With these actions, Mrs. Clinton is also trying to convey other important messages - that she is independent-minded, that she has New York's interests at heart and that, in the case of the Puerto Ricans, she is not the bleeding-heart liberal or radical that Republicans intend to cast her as.

The clemency offer drew a searing reaction from law-enforcement officers and played into the political hands of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the law-and-order Republican who is Mrs. Clinton's likely opponent in the Senate race. Some said they were outraged by the Clintons' actions. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said Sunday on the ABC program "This Week" that they badly miscalculated. "This was an effort by the president, by the first lady, to manipulate politics in New York," he said of the initial clemency offer. "I think they thought it had appeal to a specific group in New York. I think it blew up in their face and I think this is damage control, and the idea that they're in some kind of dispute, I think, just insults our intelligence." Other critics have suggested that this dance by the first lady and the president could have unwelcome ramifications for national policy. For example, the president's offer of clemency to Puerto Ricans is now being used as an opening by those who want clemency for Jonathan Jay Pollard, the Israeli spy. New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn said that if the president responded to a humanitarian plea for the Puerto Ricans, he could do so for Pollard. "We are pleading with Hillary to impress her husband with the humanitarian aspect of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard," he said. "Hillary has a lot of work to do in our community, and we are watching carefully." White House officials have said, however, that there is virtually no chance that Pollard will be released. Mrs. Clinton asserted that she had no involvement in the Puerto Rican clemency offer. Indeed, officials at the White House and Mrs. Clinton's campaign said that the two were operating independently - that Mrs. Clinton, like the rest of the country, was unaware that the White House on Friday had given the prisoners until Sept. 10 to accept the offer or it would be withdrawn. Some think the issue will blow over because the prisoners will not accept Clinton's condition that they renounce the use of violence. "She'll be saved by the people who were supposed to be pardoned," Moss said. "The prisoners will save Mrs. Clinton from Clinton."

September 7, 1999 Puerto Rico: Navy Bombs and Terrorist Bombs By Roger Hern*ndez (c) 1999 King Features September 3, 1999 Puerto Rico is in the news these days, and it's not just Ricky and Jennifer. There is also President Clinton's offer to release 11 Puerto Rican separatists in prison 16 years for their involvement in more than 130 bombings. And there is the controversy over a different kind of bombing: the Pentagon is supposed to issue a report this month recommending whether the island municipality of Vieques (off Puerto Rico's southeast coast and home to more than 9,000 people) should continue to be used for target practice by the U.S. Navy. The Navy's argument that there is no place in the whole wide world other than Vieques in which it can conduct its bombing runs and practice amphibious landings sounds bogus. Nowhere else? Not on one of the string of atolls the U.S. owns in the Pacific? Not on some uninhabited islet near Wake Island or Midway where the Navy already has a presence? It may seem at first glance that the campaign against the bombing - a poll conducted by the San Juan newspaper El Nuevo Día found 73 percent of Puerto Ricans want the Navy to stop using Vieques - has a hidden anti-American, anti-military agenda. It does not. Puerto Ricans do not want the Navy to leave Puerto Rico, they just want it to stop bombing Vieques. What it all boils down to is quite simple: No sane person wants to live in a neighborhood with bombs falling all around - whether they live in Vieques or Martha's Vineyard. And no sane person should be surprised at the fact that the island the Navy chose to bombard is off Puerto Rico, not off Cape Cod. The Navy suspended exercises in Vieques after stray bombs killed a security guard last April. It should make the suspension permanent. But the White House should not have offered to suspend the sentences of the imprisoned separatists. The 11 were convicted of illegal possession of firearms, interstate smuggling of stolen vehicles and other charges connected with the campaign of bombings conducted by the National Liberation Armed Forces (FALN, its acronym in Spanish) between 1974 and 1983.

Six people were killed and more than 100 injured. None of the men and women Clinton has offered to pardon were charged with directly causing the death of anyone, but there is no question they were part of conspiracies that aided and abetted the killers of innocent people. The FALN's campaign of terror was motivated by the desire to make Puerto Rico an independent nation. A laudable goal - but one that only a handful of Puerto Ricans support. In last year's non-binding referendum, just 2.5 percent of voters chose independence. The fact is the vast majority of Puerto Ricans want the island to become the 51st state or retain its status as a Commonwealth. To be sure, there is merit to the argument that Congress has denied Puerto Ricans the right to self-determination by refusing to permit a binding referendum. As a result, the two votes on the island's political status over the last decade have not had the weight of law-the results mean nothing beyond an count of where Puerto Ricans stand. But Congressional opposition to a binding referendum is rooted in the fear of making the Spanish-speaking island a state, not in fear of letting it become independent. So contrary to what the FALN claims, the United States is not preventing the island from becoming an independent country - Puerto Ricans are doing that on their own. Clinton's offer of clemency came with strings. To get out of jail, the prisoners must admit they committed crimes, stay out of pro-independence organizations, and notify probation officers of their whereabouts. He should not have offered any clemency at all, strings or not. The FALN put aside the ballot box of democracy - imperfect as it might be in this case - and chose the bullets of terrorism. They were sentenced to more than 50 years. Let them serve out their full terms. Roger Hernández is a nationally syndicated columnist and Writer-in- Residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He can be reached via email at

Puerto Rican Prisoners' Fight for Freedom Comes To an End BY RICARDO VAZQUEZ (c) 1999 LatinoLink SAN FRANCISCO, September 7, 1999 From her home in Chicago, Josefina Rodríguez and her bedridden husband anxiously await the release from federal prison of their two daughters, Ida Luz and Alicia Rodríguez. The sisters are Puerto Rican separatists who have spent almost two decades behind bars after being convicted of seditious conspiracy. "We've been through a lot and I think it's time that they come home and be with us," said Rodríguez. "I have butterflies in my stomach right now. For a mother to be separated from her daughters for so long, and under these conditions, it's pretty bad." The Rodriguez sisters and nine other Puerto Rican separatists could walk out of prison as early as tomorrow after having signed and accepted President Bill Clinton's offer of clemency. "I just talked to my daughter Ida Luz this morning," said Rodríguez, and she confirmed that Alicia, Carmen Valentín and Dylcia Pagán, all being held at the federal prison in Dublin, California "signed this morning." For the prisoners' families and pro-independence activists, however, freedom for the 11 nationalists came at a very high cost. The presidential deal comes with so many strings attached that it does not deserve to be called clemency, they say. "This is not the way we wanted it," said Rodríguez. "It was not what we were struggling for. We wanted amnesty. We wanted for them to come out like the nationalists in 1979, without restrictions." But restrictions they will have: * The prisoners must admit the criminal nature of their pro-independence activities and renounce violence.

* They are also forbidden from holding meetings or discussing the island's political future. * They must comply with all the requirements of being on parole. The 11 pro-independence activists were convicted for their involvement with the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), and the Puerto Rican Popular Army, also kwon as the Macheteros. According to the government, the FALN was responsible for more than 100 bombings in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. The 11 separatists, however, were not linked to crimes involving deaths or injuries. While pro-independence activists and the prisoners' families blasted the conditions for freedom, Rodríguez acknowledged that given the political climate, her daughters and the other prisoners had few choices. Since Clinton announced the clemency offer, many Republicans and even some Democrats attacked the president's decision. The coup de grace may have come this Saturday when Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying that her husband should withdraw his offer of clemency. Accepting the clemency was a difficult decision said Rodríguez. "Taking into consideration everything that's going on right now in the United States, the right-wingers are getting together on this and the propaganda coming out about the prisoners is very ugly." The White House had issued a September 10 deadline for all 16 prisoners eligible for the clemency offer. Today, spokesperson Joe Lockhardt said that 12 were expected to sign the document accepting all its conditions. Of those, 11 qualify to be released immediately. Two other prisoners rejected the offer, and another two will have to make their decisions before the deadline. Meanwhile, a nervous Josefina Rodríguez awaits the return of her daughters, aware, she says that the struggle is not over. "We are happy about this, but we have to think of the others who stayed behind. My feeling are kind of mixed in this situation." Marta Cruz of the Committee to Free Political Prisoners insisted that prisoners' ideals will remain intact. "Renouncing violence does no equate to giving up your ideals," said Crúz. "In this democratic system one has a right to political thought, and the issue of Puerto Rican independence is not dead in the United States."

From: ALM
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