Clinton: Amnesty for FALN Terrorists?

The following story was printed in today’s (August 13, 1999) Chicago Sun-Times.

Daley lambastes Clinton’s FALN offer

Mayor Daley accused President Clinton on Thursday of endangering Chicagoans by offering clemency to 11 members of a Puerto Rican independence movement linked to a spree of guerrilla bombings here. Daley, who rarely criticizes Clinton, said FALN members don’t deserve leniency after bombing 28 Chicago buildings between 1975 and 1979.

“We’ve seen the bombing [at the federal building] in Oklahoma City. Think of that,” Daley said. “People were killed there. Do you wait till they’re killed, then say it’s more serious than just planting bombs around?”

Puerto Rican nationalists insisted the prisoners already publicly renounced the use of violence in a document sent to the White House last year. “They understand the times have changed and that there is an opportunity for them to participate in the democratic process to resolve the status of Puerto Rico,” said Jose E. Lopez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and brother of Oscar Lopez Rivera, one of the imprisoned leaders of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known as FALN.

Lopez Rivera was offered clemency but still would have to serve more time before his release. None of the FALN members offered clemency have made a decision on Clinton’s offer, said their attorney, Jan Susler. Instead, Susler has requested that the White House transfer all of the inmates to Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center so they can address the release offer collectively. “They want to have an intelligent discussion face-to-face to seriously consider the offer and hear from family members and people who have lobbied many years for their release,” Susler said.

FALN was responsible for more than 100 bombings across the country that killed six people and wounded dozens of others. The 11 members who could walk free if they renounce violence were convicted in Chicago.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the parole conditions set by President Clinton “extraordinary and humiliating” during a trip to Puerto Rico, the Associated Press said.

So, a proposal to grant clemency to persons convicted of bombings in the 1970s. What’s up with that?

  1. Does Clinton think these are political prisoners? They aren’t in prison because they support Puerto Rican independence (if that were so, I can think of some prominent Chicagoans, including elected officials, who would also be in prison!) but because they committed acts of violence that caused deaths and injuries.

  2. Clinton makes speeches condemning violence after such horrific events as Littleton and the recent L.A. shootings. But now he’s proposing clemency for terrorist bombers. Is it that these criminals didn’t use the “wrong” weapon (i.e. they didn’t use guns) or just that they didn’t commit their violence for the “wrong” reasons (murder in support of a left-wing cause, as opposed to killing in support of an extreme-right-wing cause like racial or religious hatred)? Isn’t violent crime supposed to be wrong no matter what cause or purpose was meant to be served?

  3. There are a lot of people who seem to think that because someone did something in the 1960s or 70s that it should be excused because of the “tumultuous times.” But, it seems to me, there’s a big difference between, on the one hand, burning draft cards, fleeing the country to evade the draft, or scrawling pro-VC graffiti on the statue of General Logan in Grant Park during the '68 Convention and, on the other hand, setting bombs and killing people.

So, what do you all think?

He did it so Hillary could get PR votes in NY…per today’s Wall Street Journal.

I think he’s trying to get some PR tail.

When people are injured, and especially when they are killed, it should take EXTREMELY compelling circumstances to grant amnesty. I sure don’t see it here.

To my knowledge, the prisoners in question were not convicted of murder, atempted murder, or anything else involving physical injury to humans – they were convicted mainly of conspiracy and sedition, and for things like armed robbery, illegal possession of weapons, and taking hostages.

Serious crimes, to be sure, but the sentences ranged from 35 to 90 years, and the prisoners have already served between 14 and 17 years.

As was pointed out: the 11 (out of a total of 15 FALN leaders in prison) who were offered conditional clemencies (under conditions that amount essentially to publically renouncing everything they believe in) were not convicted of or proven to be connected to actual killings/bombings.

(However, 2 FALN leaders who actually have been linked to killings, escaped or skipped bail in the 80s, and remain at large.)

The actual crimes involved bank robbery, ilegal funds transfers, interstate transport of arms/explosives/stolen cash/goods, co-conspiracy, vandalism, making threats, and the such. The 4 not offered clemency were linked too closely to actual violence (and to the escapees).

The political motivation, however, got them charged with and convicted for “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US”, a charge that has is hardly ever used, and sentenced to anywhere from 57 to 99 yrs hard time. The common perception is that anyone convicted of the same deeds (e.g. knocking over a bank) w/o the political motive would have gotten 20 yrs w. time off for good behavior. Thus there has always been a bitter taste that The Man came down hard on -these- guys because they let the big fish get away, and just to prove a point about US power.

Billy Boy was obviously trying to curry favor for the Missus with NY’s PR community, whose political activists tend to be well to the left to those on the island. (And never mind the Chicago PR community – from where most of FALN came from. They are way out there) He may also be trying to mollify island politicos who are up in arms over pollution and safety problems at the Vieques Naval Bombing Range (1 civilian died by stray bomb back in April) and want it closed.

Now, not only has this resulted in much heat from the Law + Order side of mainland politics, but he has created a headache for our community – a large majority of us felt that some of them should have been placed on parole or halfway house by now … but Bill’s conditions have allowed the radical Perfessers to hijack the debate and seize the media with demands for unconditional release AND with propaganda seeking outright vindication of their deeds in the hearts and minds of the community.

So Our Fearless Leader has managed to piss off both sides, what else is new. Then again, it is an offer for conditional release under strict terms, and it looks like most of them will NOT take the terms and will stay in prison.

“… offered conditional clemencies (under conditions that amount essentially to publically renouncing everything they believe in)”

To be fair to Prez Billy, they are being required to renounce the employment of violence to achieve their ends. To the best of my knowledge, they are NOT being required to renounce seeking the independence of Puerto Rico, which would seem to me to be the main thing that they believe in. (Presumably, independence is the end and violence is just a means.) Such a condition would, in my opinion, be a clear violation of the First Amendment.

However, requiring a person being released from prison to not commit further offenses (which they shouldn’t anyway), and requiring a person to renounce employing violence, (which again they shouldn’t be anyway), doesn’t seem like an infringement of their rights or a requirement to “renounce everything they believe in.”

If my knowledge of the proposed conditions is incorrect, feel free to correct me. I’m going strictly by the accounts in the newspapers, which didn’t go into detail about the exact nature of the proposed conditions.

Yes, I should have more clearly written “under conditions which THEY CLAIM, FROM THEIR P.O.V., would amount to renouncing…etc.” Remember some of these are fanatics, totally, near-trascendentally cleaved to the belief that what they did was absolutely right(and to be fair, some of them probably are under severe pressure from their comrades to act the martyr role). They do also object to some conditions about with whom not to associate which have a lot of us confused.

There are some around here who feel that they should’ve been convicted of just plain ol’ bank robbery and gunrunning (and for the ones to whom it may apply, of murder or attepted murder). By now they would have been offered parole administratively, under the standard conditions w/o any grandstanding (and the opponents would still have protested). The sedition charge only made them “special” in the eyes of a lot of people.

Lower profile than the Manning commutation but equally controversial (esp on RW media) is the commutation of Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence.

In truth, my Twitter feed yesterday was the first I’d heard of OLR. Based on what I’ve read, I’m of two minds. On one hand: he was never convicted of killing anyone, he’s old, the sentence was arguably excessive. On the other hand: he has (allegedly) never expressed remorse for his involvement in a group that killed innocent people. What’s the straight dope on this situation. This call is a little incomprehensible to me.

I’m going to go ahead and lock this zombie. Donald Rump, if you intended to post this in the Chelsea Manning thread please feel free to do so.
ETA: Upon reflection, I closed this thread too soon. The new addition is relevant to the previous thread and most of the participants are still active so I will reopen it.


Thank you - I didn’t post in the Manning thread so as not to hijack.

As the OP, and in light of the commutation of Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence, I should say that the commutation itself doesn’t puzzle or concern me – he’s an old man who’s been in prison for a long time, and a commutation (in contrast to a pardon) doesn’t eliminate his conviction and presumably isn’t intended to condone FALN bombings, etc. Commutations of the sentences of elderly non-political but violent offenders are certainly not unheard of.

I am puzzled by the depth and breadth of the support for his release. From what I’ve read, politicians and other public figures in Puerto Rico and amongst Puerto Ricans living in the States who support statehood or ongoing commonwealth status – in other words, who don’t support the FALN’s and Rivera’s goal of an independent and socialist Puerto Rico – have been actively seeking his release for years. While Rivera did not directly participate in violence or bombings, or at least was not convicted of such, he was a member of an organization that perpetrated violence and killed people in bombings.

I’m of Irish descent, but I didn’t consider IRA members who committed violence “my” people and support them just because they’re Irish. None of the Irish immigrants I know who’ve breached the topic supported the IRA or IRA members just because they’re Irish. If an Irish immigrant or Irish-American supported the IRA (cough Peter King cough), it’s IMHO because they at some level agreed with the IRA. But it seems to me like a lot of Puerto Ricans support Rivera because he’s a Puerto Rican even if they don’t support/condone the FALN.

Do his supporters consider him a “thinker” not knowingly involved in the FALN’s violence? (Was there a non-violent independence party/movement back in the '70s he could have joined?) Do they disagree with his role in the FALN but think he’s paid his due? Or something else I’m not seeing?

Geez I have to be back at this after all these years?

On our Nationalist sides, yes (sort of), and, yes. They rationalize that even though he was knowingly a “thinker” *for *the violent radical case (nobody serious buys the complete innocence story), he did not actually engage in the violence himself, it’s not proven he was some sort of Arch-mastermind, and oh dear it’s only so sad there were those who felt they had no choice but violence, my child you just understand those were other times…

From our Unionist sides, this, mostly. Of our major nationalist “revolutionary” radicals of the 20th century he is the one who has done the most hard time. Not even the people who actually fired shots at sitting Congressmen in 1954 made it to 30 years before release. AFAICT the others who did not accept the terms of the Clinton pardon at the time have already otherwise qualified for release and it had started to seem like he was being denied just out of spite (OK so there’s that tiny bit about not showing signs of contrition nor of condemning armed struggle… that sort of detail y’know…).
Of course, things are never black and white - already, many of those in our Right, Center, and Moderate Left who supported his release on *humanitarian grounds are not at all pleased *about the Professional Left now loudly grousing about moral victory and planning a hero’s welcome (to a place he hardly lived in anyway) as if it were all their doing, while ignoring it was a collective effort and as a commutation he has not been cleared.

As always we need to be skeptical about what is publicized – agreement on having him out of prison did not mean agreement as to why. A lot, maybe most, of those on the Conservative/Unionist side who favored his release did so on purely *humanitarian *grounds, “that has been enough”, but many others did so in order to take a cause célèbre away from the Left/Nationalists: as in, an old pensioner writing a memoir and spending time with the grandkids is no potent rallying symbol to “come see the violence inherent in the system”.

Some in the Center and Mainstream Left may have done so out of plain old political opportunism to ingratiate themselves with the Che-Guevara-T-Shirt demographic; but others who handwave objections away with “those were other times” arguments similar to the Nationalists come across to me as that they may themselves have something they feel uncomfortable for doing or not doing or pretending not to notice back in the day and prefer the whole era be declared water under the bridge.

Some in the modern Right AND Left look at him and say* “well, at least back then there were people with the yarbles for it, not like these wusses today who run for their mama’s lawyer 'cause a cop gave them a mean look” *and feel both Lopez and the US Government have made their points and this can be done with.

And finally there ***were ***a large number in Puerto Rico, possibly even a plurality, who did ***not *** seem to be arsed about it one way or another so they just went along with “‘Free Oscar’? Eh, whatevs, yeah, sure…” and quite a few who actively opposed it, but alas for them, the political leadership took one look at that segment and said *"Oh sure. What are they gonna do, vote for *those other guys?" and decided there was no political ROI on being the meanie who opposed it vocally.