Boricua Popular Peoples' Army AKA Macheteros Research Proposal

Pages: 5 (1546 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

¶ … terrorism in the United States. Specifically it will discuss the Boricua Popular Peoples Army, also known as "Los Macheteros," a terrorism organization formed in Puerto Rico that had several factions throughout the United States. Los Macheteros, which translates to "the machete wielders" is a terrorist group formed in August 1978 in Puerto Rico. The group formed to protest American colonial rule in Puerto Rico, and used terrorist methods to get its message across. Many of its most important members were arrested in 1985, and since then, the group has faded from view, but there are still some members active in Puerto Rico. In addition, the separatist movement is still quite alive in Puerto Rico, fueling other terrorist groups who want separate government and rule from the United States.

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Filiberto Ojeda Rios started the Puerto Rican independence terrorist group in 1978 as a bid for Puerto Rican independence from the United States. The separatist movement had been strong in Puerto Rico since the 1960s, and Cuba was quietly helping to support the movement. Rios was a musician, and had played in the United States and his home country. He also served in the Cuban intelligence as an officer for Puerto Rican independence. The Macheteros group was affiliated with another terrorist organization, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberaci n Nacional Puertorriquena (FALN), which mostly operated in the United States, while Macheteros initially thought they would concentrate their efforts in Puerto Rico. The second in command of the Macheteros was Juan Segarra Palmer, a graduate of Harvard University and Puerto Rican nationalist.

Research Proposal on Boricua Popular Peoples' Army AKA Macheteros Assignment

It is important to note that many independence groups were organizing and operating during this time in the 1970s in Puerto Rico, determined to throw out the Americans and take their independence from foreign intervention. A Puerto Rican author (and former member of the Macheteros) notes, "Puerto Rico has been a colony since the United States invaded the island in 1898. Since then, independenistas have struggled for independence from U.S. colonial rule" (Negr n, 2005). Ojeda had been working for independence since 1960, and after he was accused of planting a bomb, he left the country for Cuba, and then came back in secret. He formed a terrorist group similar to the Macheteros, and formally formed the group in 1978.

They at first intended simply to disrupt military operations in the country, hoping to drive American forces out for the last time. One writer notes, "Ojeda and Segarra intended for the Macheteros to conduct operations in Puerto Rico and let the FALN operate in the United States. In their first operation the Macheteros randomly killed a policeman, Julio Rodriguez Rivera, on the beach at Naguabo, Puerto Rico, on August 24, 1978" (Atkins, 2002, p. 184). At first, their operations continued only in Puerto Rico, where they targeted American military installations, such as Navy and Air National Guard bases, where they killed several Americans. Later, they wanted to bring continued interest and propaganda to the people to help fight pro-statehood factions in Puerto Rico and keep the country in turbulence over colonialism and repression by the United States.

Their operations migrated into the United States in 1983, when a Wells Fargo Guard who was a Macheteros robbed a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut of $7 million, of which only $80,000 was ever recovered (Atkins, 2002, p. 184). The group used the money to fund munitions and supplies, and from then on, they were a target for the U.S. government. One member of the group let it be known that they were responsible for the robbery. Author Negr n continues, "Naturally, once the FBI had that clue, they threw themselves at Puerto Rico. They brought about 500 agents. They spent $45 million on the investigation, tapping the phones of every person that they believed could be a radical -- thousands of people" (Negr n, 2005). In 1985, the government arrested nineteen Macheteros agents in the U.S., and accused them of the robbery or helped stage it. Included in this arrest were both Ojeda and Segarra. Ojeda jumped bond and left the country, while Segarra was sentenced to sixty-five years in jail and is still serving the term (Atkins, 2002, p. 184).

The group's beliefs are not the majority beliefs in Puerto Rico, where many people believe in eventual statehood for this American colony, but they are the beliefs of a group of core individuals who have been working for Puerto Rican independence for decades. Many of these independenistas believe in separatism and socialism, as the former Macheteros member Negr n, notes. He, himself a socialist, says "At this point, the most important thing is that the Puerto Rican people have taken notice for the first time that we are truly a colony -- the thing that the U.S. government, with the help of the colonial governments, has tried to hide from the people" (Negr n, 2005). Negr n was pardoned for his part in the Wells Fargo robbery in 1999 by then President Clinton, but rearrested in 2006 as a terrorist threat, perhaps based on his continued activities reflected in the statement above.

The group's methods to achieve their goals were violent, which is one reason they became so high on the FBI's list. They used bombs, guns, and missiles to achieve their goals, and they killed U.S. servicemen in the process. They also killed civilians and that did not set well with many of the Puerto Rican people or the U.S. government. Their tactics brought them headlines and propaganda, as they wanted, but there were relatively few members (perhaps three hundred at the group's peak) (Hewitt, 2002, p. 84), and they certainly did not have the approval of the majority of their countrymen. They were under scrutiny before the Wells Fargo robbery, but that intensified the manhunt, and eventually led to their capture.

The U.S. government reacted swiftly to the terrorist activities of the Macheteros, but not until after the Wells Fargo robbery. After the robbery, FBI agents traveled to Puerto Rico and raided the homes of dozens of pro-independence activists in the country. They arrested thirty-seven independenistas, but they were eventually released without charge, "while those who were charged spent over two years in pretrial detention. Although ninety days is the maximum period for preventive detention, it was not until October 1986 that the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the continued pretrial detention of the defendants was unconstitutional" (Hewitt, 2002, p. 84). Thus, the government treated the detainees much as they are treated the suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, and Amnesty International, the worldwide human rights group, had to step in to gain trials for the detainees. The final investigation cost $8 million, which was more than was actually taken in the robberies (Hewitt, 2002, p. 91), which shows how important the government thought it was to curtail the group's activities.

Officially, the Macheteros committed 18 acts of terrorism in Puerto Rica and the U.S., and killed seven people (Hewitt, 2002, p. 61). Many people believe the group disbanded in 1986 after the arrest of the two leaders, but some believe it still exists today. In fact, the New York City Independent Media Center carries a notification dated 2008 that warns of continued FBI persecution of independenistas in Puerto Rico issued by the Macheteros (Editors, 2008). Author Hewitt has another explanation for the group's lack of violence after the arrests. He notes, "Violence declined not because the Macheteros were 'demoralized, fatally weakened, or frightened' but because they were concerned that further attacks would 'adversely affect the plight of their imprisoned comrades'" (Hewitt, 2002, p. 105). Thus, many members of the group, especially those who were rounded up but never charged with anything, continued to support the cause and keep the organization viable.

Ojeda was murdered by FBI agents in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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