11 Puerto Rican political prisoners freed by U.S.
September 1999

On August 3, eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners were offered clemency by President Bill Clinton. The eleven were all Puerto Rican independence activists who had been serving long prison sentences for actions taken between 1980 and 1985. They had been convicted of "seditious conspiracy" when in fact they didn't recognize the U.S. as the legitimate government over them-thus they describe themselves as prisoners of war, and they were imprisoned for organizing ('conspiring') to gain independence for their country ('sedition').

The eleven were released on September 10. They are Carmen Valentin, Adolfo Matos, Alicia Rodriguez, Ricardo Jimenez, Dylcia Pagan, Alberto Rodriguez, Edwin Cortes, Alejandrina Torres, Ida Luz Rodriguez, Luis Rosa and Elizam Escobar. Five other Puerto Rican political prisoners remain--three who were not included in the offer (Carlos Alberto Torres, Camancho Negron and Solis Jordan. Two, Segarra Palmer and Oscar Lopez who were offered 'clemency' after 5 and 10 more years.

Why did Clinton offer clemency now? According to Pro-Libertad, a Puerto Rican organization working to free the political prisoners, it is because of the massive protests of U.S. Navy use of the island of Vieques. The U.S. Navy accidentally killed a resident of Vieques, David Sanes, and injured four others in practice exercises on the island. This has caused increasing protest across Puerto Rico, including Puerto Ricans occupying U.S. civilian bases. In mid-August, 1,800 more soldiers were transferred by the U.S. military from Panama to Vieques. The U.S Southern Command is in the process of transferring the Southern Army to Roosevelt Roads naval base in Puerto Rico. The protests of the military base at Vieques and elsewhere in Puerto Rico have made the U.S. nervous and that is what resulted in the clemency offer, hoping it will quell the protests.

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