The Miami Herald
Tue, Oct. 11, 2005

Wife of Puerto Rican militant refuses to answer questions

The wife of a Puerto Rican nationalist wants federal immunity before answering questions about her husband.

SAN JUAN - (AP) -- The widow of a militant Puerto Rican independence activist killed in a shootout with the FBI failed to appear Monday for questioning, and her lawyer said she would not cooperate unless U.S. authorities grant her immunity from prosecution.

Puerto Rico's Justice Department promised immunity to Elma Beatriz Rosado in exchange for her cooperation with their investigation into the Sept. 23 death of her husband, the fugitive nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos. Her attorney Abreu Elias said she would not submit to questioning until the FBI also offers immunity.

''Whatever she tells [Puerto Rican authorities], the FBI will have it in 15 minutes and there's no guarantee that what she tells them won't be used by federal agents to . . . accuse her or other people,'' of a crime, Elias said.

FBI agents shot Ojeda Ríos, 72, during a raid on his farmhouse in southwestern Puerto Rico to arrest him for the 1983 robbery of $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in West Hartford, Conn. Rosado, who escaped from the farmhouse unharmed, has accused the FBI of firing first on Ojeda Ríos -- a charge the U.S. agency has denied.

The FBI's office in San Juan did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Roberto Sánchez Ramos said Monday his department's promise of immunity would protect Rosado from being charged with a crime by U.S. authorities.

''Nothing that she says . . . can be used by federal authorities, period,'' he said.

Ojeda Ríos' death has been widely condemned in the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million people, where some viewed him as a hero to the independence movement.

Critics have assailed the FBI's handling of the operation, especially for waiting almost 24 hours before entering the farmhouse while Ojeda Ríos lay wounded.

The FBI has said the U.S. Office of the Inspector General would investigate the shooting.