‘Meet the Press’ transcript
Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999
Former Puerto Rican Prisoner
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
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,
was released from federal prison after serving 19 years of a 90-year sentence.
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
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
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
Those sentences would have not been run consecutive the way they were.
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
Rico in its colonial status, and it refuses to recognize that conditions
Rico is in. It is now to 1997 that the United States Congress has said
Puerto Rico is a colony. United Nations has said Puerto Rico is a colony
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
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
a membership of the FALN. And if it’s at the cost against colonialism,
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
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
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
Puerto Rico throughout the years, the bombings that have happened in Puerto
Rico, the assassinations that have happened in Puerto Rico by an agency
now is discredited completely, as you will see later on in your own show
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 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
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
years. The Puerto Rican nation refuses to accept the militarized port of
and uses that as a target and you kill people with no respect for human
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
innocent people are going to be hurt and killed?
MR. JIMENEZ: No. No.
MR. RUSSERT: Hundred and thirty bombs, taverns, restaurants, places
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
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
and day out and have no respect for us whatsoever during all these 60 years
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
are going to decolonize Puerto Rico and deal with the issue and deal with
issue that the Puerto Rican nation wants to stop this and wants to go on
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
I’m happy to have been with my family for the first time in 19 1/2 years.
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
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
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
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.
impossible to have done that in one or two or three weeks. Even with all
we went and took a decision because of the pressure that was being put
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
MR. JIMENEZ: I definitely will not be using any violence whatsoever,
any acts of violence, to further any goals of the independence of Puerto
and my co-defendants will participate in the democratic process that’s
established in Puerto Rico to decolonize Puerto Rico. If the Congress starts
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
be part of this and also, to share with my family. You gave me that
opportunity, and thank you very much.
Copyright 1999, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. All Rights