Today we commemorate one of the first systemic sociologists in Latin America, Eugenio Maria de Hostos. De Hostos, a founder of the Antillean Confederation, an organization known for lobbying for the liberation of various Caribbean and Latin American countries from Spain and later the US, was also known for his writings and teachings.
On this same day, protests are taking place in six states across the country to stand against the FBI and grand jury harassment of four Puerto Ricans in New York. Tania Frontera, Christopher Torres, Julio Pabon Jr. and Hector Rivera, have received subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury on January 11, 2008.
The grand jury system, especially when used against Black and Latino movements, has historically been used to intimidate activists and threaten them with contempt, inflated jail terms and no legal representation.
The protested grand jury is to find out information about the “Machetero” organization also known as the Boricua Popular Army, an independentista organization formally led by Filiberto Ojeda Rios.
The history between the FBI and Puerto Rican independentistas has been a tumultuous one. On September 23, 2005, also known to Latin American activists as the day of “El Grito de Lares”, a day in which many Puerto Rican activists were assassinated during a peaceful freedom march, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was murdered by the FBI in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico. His wife, Rosada Barbosa, who survived the clandestine sniper attack by the FBI, will also be protesting the Federal grand jury subpoenas.
In late March of 2006, the Puerto Rico Justice Department sued federal authorities, including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, seeking an injunction to force the federal government authorities to provide the Commonwealth government with information related to the operation in which Ojeda Ríos died, as well as another one in which the FBI searched the homes of independence supporters affiliated with Los Macheteros. The lawsuit was dismissed in the summer of 2007.
The White house committee’s progress report on the colonial conditions of Puerto Rico surfaced around the same time as the recent subpoenas. The FBI and US government has violated various human rights and completely overlooked the peoples rights to self-determination. The question of whether torture should be used during war will never be clearly addressed until we begin to look at the uses of torture and scare tactics being used in our own country against US citizens and residents. These scare tactics are yet another example of structural racism that we need to challenge and force change upon.
In the words of the great Angela Davis, “If they come for you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” The time to stand up for freedom and human rights is now.