Puerto Rican independence activists condemn U.S. clemency offer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- (AP) -- Independence activists condemned
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
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
President Clinton also required that the prisoners sign statements
``The President reviewed the matter and obviously concluded that
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
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
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.