High Stakes in Bombing Case
By Carmelo Ruiz
SAN JUAN, Mar 9 (IPS) - Leaders in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago are calling a United States Federal
Bureau of Investigation's case against University of Puerto Rico professor, Jose Solis a right- wing plot against its
At a recent press conference, spokespersons for the Puerto Rican Cultural
Center (PRCC) said openly the Puerto Rican
community numbering some 200,000 in Chicago is the object of a political witch hunt, and that Solis' refusal to participate in it
as a witness/informer is the real reason for the criminal charges the FBI has leveled against him.
Solis is accused of bombing a US Army recruitment office in Chicago
in December 1992 and of belonging to a Puerto Rican
nationalist revolutionary organisation called the Frente Revolucionario Boricua (FRB), which claimed responsibility for the
The prosecution's main witness is Rafael Marrero, who was denounced
as an "agent provocateur" at the press conference by
the Chicago- based PRCC.
Marrero studied at the University of Puerto Rico in the 1980s. During
those years he was a member of the now-defunct Anti-
Electoral Front, a coalition of Marxist and nationalist groups. According to that organisation's former members, Marrero was a
disruptive element that caused divisions and internal conflicts.
In 1989 he moved to Chicago, where he ingratiated himself with the Puerto
Rican community and found work at the PRCC.
While working there, he allegedly assumed ultra-leftist and sectarian positions and tried to entice his colleagues to commit illegal
and violent acts.
According to the FBI's own affidavit in the Solis case, it was Marrero
who formed the FRB and it was Marrero himself who
carried out the 1992 bombing. Both the FBI and Marrero claim that Solis helped carry out this violent act.
In 1995 Marrero turned against the PRCC and started publishing El Pito,
a gazette which observers say was entirely devoted
to vicious attacks against PRCC director Jose Lopez, Puerto Rico-born US congressman Luis Gutierrez, and the Puerto Rico
El Pito is distributed free in Chicago and contains no advertising,
leaving PRCC members wondering just who is funding the
Marrero is also the star witness in an investigation by the Illinois
state government into the PRCC. The investigative committee
is led by state representative Edgar Lopez, who is disdainful of Puerto Rico's independence movement.
Lopez is not Puerto Rican but is an ally of the right-wing New Progressive
Party, which wants Puerto Rico to become a state
of the American Union.
The committee is looking into allegations that the PRCC is using Illinois
state funds to promote Puerto Rico's independence
movement and to finance a media campaign calling for the release of the 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners held in American
These prisoners are serving long sentences. Some have been imprisoned
for decades. They are accused of belonging to
clandestine organisations that engage in armed struggle to bring about Puerto Rico's independence from the US.
The Illinois state investigation was sparked by a February 1997 series
of articles in the Chicago Sun Times newspaper
published under the headline 'School Funds Used to push Terrorists' Release'.
The articles allege that the students of the Roberto Clemente High School,
which is run by the PRCC, are being indoctrinated
with Puerto Rican nationalist ideas and that some of the faculty are members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation
Five persons were killed and dozens wounded in a series of bombings
between 1974 and 1980, said to have been carried out
by the FALN. However, the organisation has not been active since a number of alleged members were arrested in Evanston,
near Chicago, in 1980.
Meanwhile, The Chicago Sun Times articles' main identified source was Marrero.
"The Chicago Sun Times has gone to horrible extremes to criminalise
the Puerto Rican community" says Mervin Mendez, a
University professor in Chicago who is active in the campaign to have the charges against Solis dropped.
The Puerto Rican community in Chicago has a long history of collective
struggle. Nineteen Seventy Three saw the founding of
the PRCC, a grassroots infrastructure of community organisations, which includes the Pedro Albizu Campos and Roberto
Clemente alternative high schools, an AIDS prevention project, a community garden and a Puerto Rican history museum.
PRCC activists were instrumental in the development of a corridor of
Puerto Rican-owned businesses in downtown Chicago
known as Paseo Boricua.
PRCC members allege that their community has been the object of harassment
and surveillance by the FBI's Counter
Intelligence Programme (COINTELPRO).
This programme was ostensibly shut down in the 1970s after it was exposed
by political activists, the press and the congress as
an operation which aimed to eliminate political dissent in the United States.
According to an unclassified 1960 memorandum by then-FBI director J.
Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO's number two target
was the Puerto Rico independence movement.
Chicago happens to have been the scene of some of the worst violence
in the 1960s. In December 1969 the FBI and the
Chicago police carried out a late-night armed attack against the local headquarters of the Black Panthers, a Marxist
afroamerican revolutionary organisation.
This quasi-military operation resulted in the death of Panther leader Freddie Hampton.
In 1983 the FBI raided the Albizu Campos High School in search of FALN
connections. Reports are that the agents came
away empty handed, but left damage to the tune of 25,000 dollars.