January 26, 2004

Welcome Reception

Freed separatist arrives in Puerto Rico


Carolina, Puerto Rico - Hundreds of Puerto Rican independence supporters welcomed home Saturday a nationalist who spent 19 years in
prison for his involvement in the 1983 robbery of an armored truck in Connecticut.

Arriving at San Juan's international airport, Juan Segarra Palmer, 53, told the crowd, "How good it is to be in Puerto Rico!"

Segarra Palmer was granted clemency in 1999 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, to take effect after he served 5 more years, and he was freed from a prison near
Orlando, Fla., on Friday. Without Clinton's action he would have been due for release in 2016.

"The sentence's long years didn't change your conscience!" people in the crowd chanted, waving Puerto Rican flags.

FBI officials have said they still are searching for four fugitives who in 1983 allegedly robbed a Wells Fargo armored truck of more than $7 million in West Hartford,
Conn. Officials say one of them, Victor Manuel Gerena, allegedly injected two guards with a sleeping substance to facilitate the robbery. He is on the FBI's list of
top 10 most-wanted fugitives. Other fugitives in the case are brothers Avelino and Norberto González Claudio, and Filiberto Ojeda Ríos.

The robbery was carried out by members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group Los Macheteros, or Cane Cutters. The money allegedly was used to support their
efforts at independence.

Segarra Palmer said he felt sorry for his involvement in violence and said he hopes to "learn to be an instrument of peace." He was one of 13 Puerto Ricans granted
clemency by Clinton in 1999. As for his time in prison, he said "the most difficult thing isn't the conditions in prison. The constant worry of the prisoner is the
well-being of his family."

He said he hopes to discuss his future role in independence efforts with those on the island, which became a U.S. territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.
"I do know that I want to serve. How I will end up serving, I don't know," Segarra Palmer said. Among those who greeted him were Puerto Rican Independence
Party leader Rubén Berríos and Lolita Lebrón, who served 25 years in prison for a 1954 shooting attack that wounded five lawmakers in the U.S. House of

Copyright © 2004