Clinton's clemency offer for Puerto Rican militants under fire
WASHINGTON -- (AP) -- Police officers maimed by bombs of the Puerto
group FALN criticized President Clinton on Tuesday for offering freedom to 16
members of the militant nationalist organization.
Some of the officers also joined Republicans in accusing the President
pandering to the Latino vote to boost his wife's all-but-announced Senate
campaign in New York.
``There's a Senate race going on and I believe in my heart that
votes in the Senate
race have a lot to do with clemency being offered at this time,'' said New York
City Detective Anthony Senft. Since being struck by a FALN bomb in 1983, Senft
has undergone numerous operations to reconstruct his face and hip. He is blind in
his left eye and has lost some of his hearing and the tip of one finger.
Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., announced Tuesday that the Senate
Relations subcommittee on terrorism, which he chairs, will hold a hearing on the
issue in the coming weeks.
The House also should hold a hearing, said Rep. Vito Fossella,
a New York
Republican who gathered law enforcement officials for a news conference outside
the Capitol. He plans to introduce a resolution condemning Clinton's clemency
``It is a travesty,'' Fossella said. ``Releasing terrorists before
they have served
their time is the wrong signal to send to the rest of the world.''
Clinton announced in August that he would commute the sentences
of the 16
FALN members if they renounced the use of violence. Human rights officials have
argued that the sentences handed out to the 11 men and five women were too
harsh because none were involved in any deaths.
With Hillary Rodham Clinton moving closer to entering the Senate
race from New
York -- home to thousands of Puerto Ricans -- the clemency offer is fast
developing into a political hot potato.
Jim Fotis, executive director of the Law Enforcement Alliance
of America, said the
President's move was ``clearly a ploy to garner support for Hillary Clinton's Senate
The American Conservative Union began airing television advertisements
the deal this week in the upstate New York area where the Clintons are
Members of the FALN -- the Spanish initials for Armed Forces of
Liberation -- staged some 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the
United States between 1974 and 1983. The attacks left six dead and dozens
``These people obviously committed criminal acts and they served
some time in
jail for those,'' White House deputy press secretary Jake Siewert said Tuesday.
``What the President has made perfectly clear in this grant of clemency is that
these are conditioned on renunciations of violence.''
But Joe Connor, whose father was a banker killed by a FALN bomb
in 1975, said
he was convinced the clemency offer was politically motivated.
``It makes me sick. It's a betrayal'' Connor said.
``Is my father's life worth less than his [Clinton's] wife's election?''
Copyright 1999 Miami Herald