The Miami Herald
August 13, 1999

 Puerto Rican independence activists condemn U.S. clemency offer

 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- (AP) -- Independence activists condemned a
 conditional U.S. offer of clemency for 11 islanders convicted of sedition, saying it
 only underscored Puerto Rico's colonial status.

 ``These conditions are inviting a confrontation,'' said Luis Nieves Falcon, leader of
 a campaign to free 16 Puerto Ricans linked by U.S. prosecutors to a wave of U.S.
 bombings in the 1970s and '80s.

 ``These are shameful demands,'' said Lolita Lebron, who in 1979 was pardoned by
 President Carter for a 1954 shooting attack on the House of Representatives.
 ``The President has insulted the dignity of the Puerto Rican nation and those who
 fight for its liberty.''

 The Justice Department said Wednesday that the members of the Armed Forces
 of National Liberation would be freed if they agreed to renounce violence, not to
 meet other independence leaders and to obey a ban on using weapons.

 Eleven prisoners would be released immediately if they agree; two would have to
 serve more prison time; and three would have the unpaid balance of their criminal
 fines canceled.

 President Clinton also required that the prisoners sign statements requesting

 ``The President reviewed the matter and obviously concluded that the sentences
 imposed for the crime committed were out of proportion to sentences for similar
 offenses for others,'' Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday in Washington.

 The conditions were applauded by Puerto Rico's pro-U.S. statehood governor and
 congressional representative, who long have insisted the prisoners renounce
 violence before obtaining freedom.

 ``I believe [Clinton] did this in the most prudent and just manner possible,'' Gov.
 Pedro Rossello said.

 ``It's important that every one of these people understand that they committed a
 crime,'' declared Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barcelo.

 While the independence party won less than 3 percent of the vote in a December
 plebiscite on Puerto Rico's political status, the campaign to free the prisoners has
 received broad popular support.

 Puerto Rico's 3.8 million islanders are U.S. citizens. They can serve in the
 military and receive billions from Washington but pay no federal taxes, cannot
 vote for president and have only a nonvoting delegate in Congress.