Obama Frees Cuba-Backed Puerto Rican Terrorist 3

A painting of Oscar Lopez Rivera in Humboldt Park in Chicago in 2011. (Credit: Sally Ryan for The New York Times)

A painting of Oscar Lopez Rivera in Humboldt Park in Chicago in 2011.
(Credit: Sally Ryan for The New York Times)

Obama Commutes Sentence of F.A.L.N. Member Oscar Lopez Rivera

By CHRISTOPHER MELEJAN, New York Times

President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a man convicted for his role in a Puerto Rican nationalist group linked to more than 100 bombings in New York and other cities in the 1970s and 1980s.

The man, Oscar Lopez Rivera, was serving a 70-year sentence after being convicted of numerous charges, including seditious conspiracy, a charge used for those plotting to overthrow the United States government.

He was linked to the radical group known as the F.A.L.N., the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation, and was one of more than a dozen group members convicted in the 1980s.

Under Mr. Obama’s commutation order, Mr. Lopez Rivera’s prison sentence will expire May 17. It was one of 209 grants of commutation by the president announced Tuesday.

The F.A.L.N., which waged a violent campaign for the independence of Puerto Rico, was considered by the authorities to be among the most elusive and resilient terrorist groups to operate in the United States. Among its notable attacks was a bombing at Fraunces Tavern in New York in 1975 that killed four people.

The group was known for its tight-knit membership, fanatical zeal and hit-and-run tactics, as exemplified by the bombings of four government buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve in 1982 that seriously wounded three police officers.

Mr. Lopez Rivera was not specifically charged in the Fraunces Tavern bombing but more broadly with, among other things, the interstate transportation of firearms with the intent to commit violent crimes, and transportation of explosives with intent to kill and injure people and to destroy government buildings and property.

President Bill Clinton offered Mr. Lopez Rivera and other members of the F.A.L.N. clemency in 1999, a decision that stirred an emotional debate. Mr. Clinton said their sentences were out of proportion with their offenses.

While 12 prisoners accepted the offer and were freed, Mr. Lopez Rivera rejected the chance to reduce his sentence because it did not include all of the group’s members, his lawyer, Jan Susler, said at the time. If he had accepted the agreement, she said, he would have been eligible for release in 2009.

Article continues here:  FALN  

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Cuba Not Off Hook, Despite Removal From US Terror List Reply

FILE - The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

Pamela Dockins, Voice of America

STATE DEPARTMENT— The United States has dropped Cuba from its State Sponsor of Terrorism list but the removal does not clear Havana of all U.S. embargoes and statutory restrictions. The State Department announced Friday that Cuba had been removed from the blacklist – a designation that it shared with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

In an April statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said “circumstances have changed since 1982,” when Cuba was put on the list because of its “efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America.”

But Cuba still faces U.S. restrictions on transactions such as exports and foreign trade because of other punitive measures that remain in place.

“In addition to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, there is a web of restrictions and sanctions that have been applied over the years and some of them are unrelated to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

Among them, is the Helms-Burton Act, which includes an embargo and other financial restrictions.  

Mixed Views on significance of Cuba’s removal

Cuba’s removal from the list is largely symbolic, said William LeoGrande, a Latin American politics professor at American University.   “It is more symbolic than it is practical in the sense that most of the sanctions that fall upon a country that is on the terrorism list already apply to Cuba because of the broader embargo,” he said.   But he said the removal was very important to Cuba, as Washington and Havana work to normalize relations.

Feature continues here: Cuba Off State Sponsor List

 

 

 

FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

As U.S. And Cuba Explore a Renewal Of Diplomacy, What Becomes Of Victor Gerena, Other Notorious Fugitives? 2

(Courtesy:  Hartford Courant)

(Courtesy: Hartford Courant)

By Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant

There is probably no one with a greater interest than Victor M. Gerena in the talks underway between the U.S. and Cuba about re-establishing diplomatic relations.

In 1983, he and other members of a group of Puerto Rican nationalists — a group armed, advised and financed by the Cuban government — stole $7 million from a West Hartford armored car depot in what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history.

The Cubans sneaked Gerena into Mexico City. They stashed him in a safe house, lightened the color of his hair and gave him a phony diplomatic identity. Eventually, they put him and much of the money on a plane to Havana, where Gerena disappeared into the shadowy community of murderers, bombers, robbers and hijackers Cuba has sheltered from prosecution in the U.S and other countries since the 1960s.

For decades, the U.S. fugitives hiding in Cuba have been of little interest to anyone beyond a handful of journalists, law enforcement agencies and the families of their victims. But as President Obama presses an effort to reopen embassies and lift credit and trade restrictions, the fugitives have been discovered by critics and are emerging as a potential impediment to normalization.

Last week, Obama said he intends to remove Cuba from the government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, effectively opening Havana to commercial lenders. Cuba has been on the list for 30 years, with Iran, Syria and Sudan. The last time the state department reviewed the list, in 2013, it decided against Cuba’s removal because of its continued willingness to provide safe haven to fugitives wanted on terror charges.

Congress has 45 days to challenge the decision to remove Cuba from the list and opponents were lining up last week within Congress and among law enforcement agencies, Cuban exiles and families of victims killed by fugitives who have lived comfortably in Cuba for decades

“In the midst of our global war on terrorism, simply put, how can Obama and this administration remove a state that sponsors terrorists from the State Sponsor of Terror list?” said Joseph Connor, whose father died in a 1975 bomb attack at Fraunces Tavern in New York by a Puerto Rican nationalist group supported by Cuba. “This action shows Obama’s utter disregard for Americans like my father, who was murdered by Castro’s clients and it tells the world we condone terrorism.”

Others want return of the fugitives to be a condition of normalization or, at a minimum, that the fugitives be used to leverage other concessions.

Article continues here:  Terrorist Victor Gerena

Case Closed On Wells Fargo Robbery; Except For Missing $7 Million And Top Fugitive 2

By Edmund H. Mahony, emahony@courant.com, The Hartford Courant

When Norberto Gonzalez Claudio was sentenced to prison this month — older, grayer and as devoted as ever to Puerto Rico’s independence — it effectively closed the book on Connecticut’s greatest political crime, so far as a case can be closed when $7 million and the guy who stole it are missing. Gonzalez, now 67, was a leader of the doctrinaire young Puerto Rican militants called Los Macheteros who, in 1983 carried off what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. They stole the $7 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford and declared that they would use it to wage a war for independence against their colonial oppressor, the United States.

In the days after the robbery, Connecticut was transfixed by its audacity. An unremarkable Wells Fargo employee from Hartford named Victor Gerena had injected two co-workers with a substance intended to subdue them, stuffed $7 million in used bills into a rented Buick and disappeared into the night. Over the decades leading to Gonzalez’s capture last year in the Puerto Rican mountains, the U.S. listed Los Macheteros as a terrorist organization and blamed it and a related group for more death and destruction than any other terror network operating in the U.S. until al Qaeda struck New York in 1994 and 2001. The Macheteros killed two U.S. sailors, blew up eight National Guard jets and attacked two federal courthouses with Cuban supplied rockets, all in Puerto Rico. The related Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by the initials FALN, launched a bombing campaign against mainland targets, including Mobil Oil and the Fraunces Tavern in New York.

The Macheteros led the FBI on a chase around the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Mexico, Panama and Cuba, as the organization met to negotiate a division of the money and more guns with the government of their principal supporter and supplier, Cuban President Fidel Castro. The robbery confirmed a belief long held by FBI agents in the Caribbean that Castro had been training and supplying the militant wing of the independence movement since the 1960s.

The FBI was so alarmed by the robbery and related violence that the bureau sent a team to San Juan to end it. When the agents helped draft the first Wells Fargo indictment in 1985, they argued —unsuccessfully — to name senior Cuban government figures as conspirators. Although there was a sense of finality in the courtroom when Gonzalez was sentenced to five years in prison on Nov. 14, analysts say forces more powerful than the FBI had begun years earlier to push the violent, clandestine movement for Puerto Rico’s independence into the past. “I think the sentencing put a period at the end of things,” said Marlene Hunter, who was part of the FBI team that cracked the Wells Fargo robbery and who later retired as the head of the FBI’s San Juan division.

Puerto Rico is saturated by culture and commerce from the north, where more Puerto Ricans now live than on the island. An influential independence party exists and politicians who support the island’s current, territorial relationship with the U.S. swept the election earlier this month. But in an historic, if contentious, Election Day plebiscite, majorities of Puerto Ricans voted displeasure with their territorial status and support for becoming a state.

Story continues here:  http://articles.courant.com/2012-11-24/news/hc-macheteros-cuba-20121124_1_los-macheteros-fbi-s-san-juan-fbi-agents

Today in History: Cuban-Supported Terrorists Stole $7 Million in Wells Fargo Heist Reply

September 12, 1983:  The Puerto Rican terrorist group known as the Ejército Popular Boricua (EPB) [Boricua Popular Army] conducted Operation White Eagle.  This assault on a Wells Fargo armored car terminal in Hartford, Connecticut, netted the EPB over seven million dollars.  After the robbery, Cuban Intelligence covertly sent most of the money and Victor Manuel Gerena – the robbery’s central figure, to Havana.  Gerena, a Hartford resident and Wells Fargo employee, escaped arrest, although two years later, 16 other EPB members were apprehended for their role in White Eagle.  The FBI said that the others were identified during the course of an estimated 2000 hours of wiretapped conversations, as well as by over 5000 photographs and videotapes generated by physical surveillance against terrorist operations in Puerto Rico.  The FBI said that 64 agents in Puerto Rico worked the wiretap portion of the operation.  Among those jailed were EPB leaders Juan Segarra Palmer and Filiberto Ojeda Rios, whom prosecutors said was a Cuban Intelligence agent.

Editor’s Note:  The EPB is also known as Los Macheteros (“the Machete Wielders”).