The Miami Herald
September 1, 1999

Clinton's clemency offer for Puerto Rican militants under fire

 WASHINGTON -- (AP) -- Police officers maimed by bombs of the Puerto Rican
 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 of
 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 Foreign
 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 critical of
 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 National
 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
 more wounded.

 ``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?'' he said.

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald