Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.

5 Responses to “Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico”


  1. 1 Erica

    I’m glad you posted this – I wouldn’t have otherwise known about it.

  2. 2 Michael L. Wagner

    I’m a pro se appellant in DC Court of Appeals, and my legal actions call for: 1./ a grand jury investigation of pres. Bush’s involvement in the 2000 Florida Pres. Election fraud, quoting the US Commission on Civil Rights report, and 2./ legalization of domestic hemp crops.
    I’ve been litigating gov. defendant suits for years now, all to the result of much crime!
    In fact, Hon Urbina dismissed my Bush complaint with one citation that explicitly upholds the merits of my case!, and with another that the cited Court explicitly decided against!, namely, “The Executive Branch has exclusive authority and absolute discretion to decide whether to investigate or prosecute,” US v. Nixon.
    The list goes on and on and on…
    Of course, I’ve contacted the ACLU and the CA Senators–futilely (of course!).

  3. 3 Tex

    Is there a streamlined way to get basic liberties ensured both on the island and the mainland? I worry that focusing on a national liberation struggle is going to leave boricuas stateside out.

    Frinstance, I see clear parallels to the supposed “thwarted attack” on Losa Angeles in that in that case too, no local officials were notified. Granted, there wasn’t the violent flare-up in that case, but the idea of cooperation with or even bare recognition of those outside the national Republican machine is a uniting thread that I think we should play up as much as it is useful.

  4. 4 Jack

    Took me forever to respond, but…

    I think that it is important to address the civil liberties violations that are going on in Puerto Rico in tandem with addressing such violations going on against US citizens stateside, too. It is true that many of the same things are going on in both situations, in both locations.

    However, I think that it is important to recognize the very specific racist, imperialist, and colonialist context of what’s going on in Puerto Rico. This civil liberties violations are part of a long history of American repression and oppression of Puerto Rico. The struggle for Puerto Rican independence is a centuries old one, first fought against Spanish rule and now against American colonialism. I wouldn’t want to see that struggle for national liberation subjugated in order to focus solely on civil liberties for American citizens.

    Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico shouldn’t have to worry about their rights as American citizens, because they shouldn’t be American citzens at all.

  5. 5 John

    In Northern California the government has a program that wants to misuse police power. They are using the National Insurance Crime Buearu, a non-profit group full of ex-FBI agents who defend insurence companies, to go after blacks and latinos. They use the CHP, local police and federal agents to arrest people for auto insurance fraud, medicare abuse and workers compensation fraud. This would be o.k. if it wasn’t used politically and to get more fuel against immigrants and American blacks/ latinos. They use these insurance investigations because the agents in the programs can’t be prosecuted for abuse. LULAC criticized the program but I believe outside pressure, bribes and intimidation have quieted them down somewhat. Activists, journalists and others homes can be raided, propety taken and reputations ruined, even though persons are innocent to begin with. Anyone prosecuted for fraud can have their property taken. In california the state is using these raids to get support to take the rights of california residents to sue police, auto makers and insurance companies when they cause injury or death because of their actions.
    -

    The governor is the main man counted on to pass these new laws stopping law suits in California.

    P.S. Understand that this program is dirty. The government has attempted to cause blacks and latino’s to be against each other in Oakland and other Northern California area’s. They don’t want any forms of unity against their attacks on freedoms. Don’t be apart of the deception, blacks and latinos with poor whites should protest this criminal activity. This program is stationed in L.A. but has offices in Oakland and Sacramento.

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