‘Meet the Press’ transcript
Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999
                      RICARDO JIMENEZ
                      Former Puerto Rican Prisoner
                      MICHAEL DEUTSCH
                      FALN Lawyer
                      Tim Russert - NBC News
                      David Broder - Washington Post
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                      And in our Roundtable: amidst controversy, the president frees Puerto
               Rican terrorist prisoners. What will this decision mean for the Senate campaign
               of Hillary Clinton?
                      But first: President Clinton issued his clemency order freeing 11 Puerto
               Rican prisoners. This was the scene this weekend as family, friends and
               supporters greeted these newly freed prisoners. With us, Ricardo Jiminez, who
               was released from federal prison after serving 19 years of a 90-year sentence.
                      Good morning.
                      MR. JIMENEZ: Good morning, sir. How are you?
                      MR. RUSSERT: Why did you serve 19 years in federal prison?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I served 19 years in federal prison for seditious
               conspiracy and other weapons charges and interstate commerce charges.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Let me put on the screen for you and our viewers
               exactly what those charges were: armed robbery, seditious conspiracy,
               possession of unregistered firearm, carrying firearms during commission of
               seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce of violence,
               interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, interference with interstate
               commerce by threats of violence. This morning, Mr. Jiminez, do you have any
               regret or remorse for the commission of those crimes?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I think basically we have to know that what we were
               charged with, if it was anybody else, would have served much, much less time.
               Those sentences would have not been run consecutive the way they were. The
               number 90 would have never appeared, and I probably would have been
               home many, many years ago.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Why did you commit those crimes?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: We believed in Puerto Rican independence. We
               believed that Puerto Rican independence is a human right that has to be
               addressed. It is an international crime that United States has maintained Puerto
               Rico in its colonial status, and it refuses to recognize that conditions that Puerto
               Rico is in. It is now to 1997 that the United States Congress has said that
               Puerto Rico is a colony. United Nations has said Puerto Rico is a colony and,
               hopefully in 1997, when we also said that we were participating in the
               democratic process, we see an initiative by the United States to say that they
               will start dealing with the process of decolonizing Puerto Rico.
                      MR. RUSSERT: You were a member of the FALN, which is an acronym
               in Spanish for the Armed Forces of National Liberation. Do you regret having
               been a member of FALN?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I think at no time has we officially have said that we
               were members of the FALN, but I have no doubt to sustain that I was part of
               a membership of the FALN. And if it’s at the cost against colonialism, then it’s
               a rightfully just stage, just like the United States to colonize itself in the 1700s.
               And I’m pretty sure you’re proud of George Washington. I’m definitely in that
               line in Puerto Rico, as they called me a freedom fighter of our country.
                      MR. RUSSERT: The FALN, the terrorist group, took credit,
               responsibility in the ’70s and ’80s for 130 bombings, which maimed dozens of
               people, killed six. This morning, are you willing to express some regret,
               remorse, contrition for those injuries, those deaths, those bombings?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I think that we’ve always had in anything that has
               happened—the precaution that we’ve always taken is the preservation of
               human life. You know, we’re deeply sorry that other things have happened
               contrary to that. Just as it happened, the repression that has happened in
               Puerto Rico throughout the years, the bombings that have happened in Puerto
               Rico, the assassinations that have happened in Puerto Rico by an agency that
               now is discredited completely, as you will see later on in your own show with
               the Waco situation, has been doing this in Puerto Rico for decades and
               decades, keeping secret surveillance of many, many, many people. And those
               things are very, very awful. I think both sides has to come to a recognition that
               that has to stop. Definitely it has to stop.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Well, a New York City police officer named Frank
               Conner, having lunch January 24, 1975, and blown up to death, left two sons,
               Joseph and Thomas, 11 and nine, without a father. Would you apologize to
               them this morning for what your organization did?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: If the Conners—I have said, you know, and I hope they
               would understand that when no intentions of ever having cost human life
               directly to somebody, you know—and we had no intentions of doing that
               purposely. We had never in our intentions become what you
               keep—repeatedly to terrorize people. We have had much compassion. It is
               our belief that because of our compassion, because of our love of our country,
               because of our love for humanity is that we would like this situation rectified
               and that the United States government start the process to decolonize Puerto
               Rico as soon as possible. And we will not have anything and United States
               stops the violence, stops the violence in Viekas that has been going on for 60
               years. The Puerto Rican nation refuses to accept the militarized port of Viekas
               and uses that as a target and you kill people with no respect for human life
               whatsoever and you have never, never apologized to the Puerto Rico nation.
                      MR. RUSSERT: If you, in fact, are part of an organization, support of an
               organization that sets off 130 bombs, isn’t there a pretty strong possibility that
               innocent people are going to be hurt and killed?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: No. No.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Hundred and thirty bombs, taverns, restaurants, places
               where civilians...
                      MR. JIMENEZ: No.
                      MR. RUSSERT: ...frequent and innocent people are not going to get
                      MR. JIMENEZ: No. If precau—you know, I think all precautions were
               taken, you know, to make sure that all human life was preserved. And in the
               end the measures were not taken that were necessary by the people who
               owned those establishments. And, no, we have never, never been in our
               objective to terrorize people.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you...
                      MR. JIMENEZ: But there’s been an objective by the United States
               government to terrorize the Puerto Rican nation. You terrorized Viekas day in
               and day out and have no respect for us whatsoever during all these 60 years in
               the Roosevelt Naval Marine Base of the world. You just do whatever you
               want, and then you want us—and you never, never have respected us.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you...
                      MR. JIMENEZ: You know, what we have in the situation here is that all
               has to stop. We have to stop that. We have to come to a situation where we
               are going to decolonize Puerto Rico and deal with the issue and deal with the
               issue that the Puerto Rican nation wants to stop this and wants to go on with
               its life.
                      MR. RUSSERT: What would you say to President Clinton this morning
               for granting his clemency to you?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I’m pretty sure that we all are very grateful. We’re very,
               very happy to be out in the street. I am very happy to be breathing fresh air.
               I’m happy to have been with my family for the first time in 19 1/2 years. I am
               happy that my family came from different parts of this country, you know.
               They are very lawful, working citizens of this country. And we have
               participated in dinners, we have participated in other things, and I’m pretty
               sure all my other co-defendants are very happy.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Now...
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I would have to say that, you know, if he have
               compassion, you know—and maybe my attorney would direct that—it’s
               about the conditions. Mike, would you...
                      MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me just ask you a question on a follow-up, Mr.
               Jimenez, about Hillary Clinton, the first lady of the United States. She
               supported the president’s clemency plea for three weeks and then changed her
               mind and said he should have withdrawn it. What would you say to Mrs.
               Clinton this morning?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I would say that Mrs. Clinton is—there was no reason
               for her to come out against us and to regret—she says that three weeks was
               long enough. She forgets that we had prisoners from New York to California
               to Oklahoma, Wisconsin, in between in Kansas and Pennsylvania; that the
               lawyers had to travel and tell what was going on, what was on the table. It was
               impossible to have done that in one or two or three weeks. Even with all that,
               we went and took a decision because of the pressure that was being put on to
               come to a final decision at this time.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Do you think she’s playing politics?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I don’t know if she’s playing politics or not. I definitely
               think that maybe she was assessed wrong and maybe she didn’t have full
               knowledge of what was going on.
                      MR. RUSSERT: You call yourself a freedom fighter. Will you continue to
               use any means necessary to bring about, in your mind, the decolonization of
               Puerto Rico?
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I definitely will not be using any violence whatsoever,
               any acts of violence, to further any goals of the independence of Puerto Rico. I
               and my co-defendants will participate in the democratic process that’s been
               established in Puerto Rico to decolonize Puerto Rico. If the Congress starts its
               proceeding and we should have the decolonization of Puerto Rico done by
               international law, the United Nations should step in. They have acknowledged
               that Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States and, therefore, we will
               participate, along with the United Nations and the United States, in the
               decolonization of Puerto Rico in international laws.
                      MR. RUSSERT: Ricardo Jimenez, we thank you for joining us this
                      MR. JIMENEZ: I thank you very much in giving me this opportunity to
               come here and express my point of view. And I’d like to thank all my
               supporters and all the campaign in Puerto Rico and in Chicago and New
               York. Thank you very, very much. And I’m so appreciative that I’m here to
               be part of this and also, to share with my family. You gave me that
               opportunity, and thank you very much.
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