The Puerto Rico Civil Rights Commission Investigates the Death of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos

The Puerto Rico Daily Sun reports on the ongoing investigation by the Puerto Rico Civil Rights Commission into the September 23, 2005 death of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, leader of the Macheteros. Commission Executive Director Vance Thomas said the panel is already writing the report on its investigation, the results of which should be ready by December 31.

Ojeda Ríos, who was born in 1933, headed the Macheteros, a pro-independence militant group that in 1983 robbed $7 million from the Wells Fargo in Hartford, Connecticut. He was accused of that crime and sentenced to 55 years in jail. However, in 1990, he escaped detention after taking off the electronic bracelet used to track his movements. After living as a fugitive for about 15 years, FBI officials shot Ojeda Ríos in 2005, after finding his home in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico. Ojeda Ríos’ widow, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, surrendered and survived the raid. There has been much speculation as to why, after he was shot, he was left to bleed for over 18 hours without any medical assistance. The autopsy performed on Ojeda Ríos’s body revealed that his wound was not life-threatening and that he could have survived if he had received proper medical attention. Instead, he slowly bled to death. Amnesty International suggested that the killing had the blueprint of an “extrajudicial execution.”

As Félix Jiménez (The Nation) writes, the timing of the execution could not have been more incendiary—“it was staged during the commemoration of the 137th anniversary of El Grito de Lares, a failed 1868 rebellion against Spanish colonial rule and the most important date for independence advocates on the island, a holiday whose highlight for the past fifteen years had been a taped message by the man who was left dying. By shooting Ojeda Ríos one hour after his last political speech aired, broadcast over radio and television, the agents tapped an emotional nationalist reserve.”

While Thomas has declined to reveal details about the probe, the Civil Rights panel has investigated allegations that FBI agents altered the scene of the bloody event in front of Puerto Rican government officials so that they could not be accused of killing Ojeda Ríos and that agents tried to make Ojeda Ríos’ death appear as a suicide to try to discredit his wife. To this day, the FBI has maintained that the Office of the Inspector General interviewed all the officials who took part in the raid and has cleared the agency of any wrong doing.

For full article, see http://www.prdailysun.com/news/Ojeda-Ros-report-expected-by-Dec-31

For more on the death of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, see Félix Jiménez’s article at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051024/jimenez

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