Anger was felt across the island nation of Puerto Rico after the news spread that FBI agents had shot and killed independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Ojeda, head of the underground Puerto Rican group Ejercito Popular Boricua-Macheteros, was shot Sept. 23 in a raid on his home.

FBI agents in Puerto Rico confirmed that Ojeda had tried to negotiate his surrender on charges stemming from a 1983 Wells Fargo robbery through Jesus Davila, a reporter for the New York newspaper El Diaro-La Prensa. Davila said he thought Ojeda requested his presence so as to bear witness to what was happening. The FBI refused Ojeda’s request for negotiation and sealed off the neighborhood, allowing no one to enter or leave, including the press. Ojeda’s widow, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, said, “At that point I felt in my heart — I knew they were going to murder him.”

According to neighborhood sources, FBI agents began the shootout. They fired about 100 bullets, then were silent for 27 hours before announcing that Ojeda was dead. Although he had two bullet wounds, an autopsy found that he died because he was left to bleed to death.

The Puerto Rican Senate passed a resolution, presented by Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, to investigate the raid and shootout.

Supporters of Puerto Rican independence are not the only ones to condemn the FBI actions. Thomas Rivera Shatz, secretary-general of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, said that the FBI’s actions were “shameful and unacceptable.” The government of Anibal Acevedo Vila of the pro-autonomy Popular Democratic Party also criticized the FBI operation, which involved more than 20 agents.

Members of the U.S. Congress who are Puerto Ricans, Luis Gutierrez of Chicago and Jose Serrano of New York, joined in the criticism. Gutierrez noted that Ojeda was 72 years old and had heart problems. “Where is the threat to society that would justify an attack with so much armed force?” asked the congressman. “He had an arrest warrant issued against him, not a death warrant.”

Serrano pointed out that the FBI has ways of arresting people but they act a lot tougher and more violent when it has comes to Puerto Rican separatists. Serrano, who is a member of the congressional committee that oversees funding to the FBI, told the press that he would seek an investigation.

Serrano also criticized the day chosen for the raid. Sept. 23 is the anniversary of the Grito de Lares, the date of Puerto Rico’s revolution against the Spanish colonial rule. Like ever year, the 137th anniversary of this event was commemorated in the town of Lares. At this event, which was attended by thousands who are for the independence and sovereignty of Puerto Rico and against U.S. colonialism, a message from Ojeda appealing for unity of the independence movement was read.

Tens of thousands turned out to show their respects at the funeral ceremonies for Ojeda Rios, and a caravan of more than 1,000 cars accompanied the funeral hearse to his native town of Naguabo.

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