The Puerto Rican Political Prisoners (1999)

Political Prisoners in the United States

April 1999

The United States holds political prisoners. Among the political prisoners the US keeps in its prisons there are 15 Puerto Rican men and women. The majority of them have been incarcerated now for 19 years. In all cases, their crime was to fight to put an end to U.S. colonialism in their country.

The U.S. government has succeeded in burying these independence freedom fighters within the confines of the largest inmate population in the world (about 1.5 million inmates). But, what it is unfortunate, is that the progressive movement, the same movement which has been so active in denouncing human rights violations in other countries has, for the most part, avoided the issue of political prisoners at home. All progressive people in the U.S. should examine this situation more closely and join in the movement to obtain the release of the Puerto Rican political prisoners and all political prisoners in the US.


There are two main groups of Puerto Rican political prisoners: members of the Armed Forces of National Liberaton (FALN), and members of the Boricua Popular Army, "Macheteros." The testimonies and the brief biographical notes we reproduce here demonstrate these men and women are not common delinquents, as the US legal system has chosen to label them. Their arrests and subsequent imprisonment correspond to a planned effort by the FBI to destroy their organizations.

"In 1978, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) --a clandestine pro-independence group operating in the US-- was designated by the FBI as one of the most significant threats to the security of the United States. Between 1980 and 1983, 14 alleged members of the FALN were arrested, accused of seditious conspiracy, and sentenced to prison terms between 50 and 90 years.

In August, 1985, the FBI arrested 13 people accused of being members of the clandestine group "Los Macheteros" (machete wielders) in Puerto Rico. [On September 1983, "Los Macheteros" claimed responsibility for the expropriation of $7 millions from a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut.] During the arrests of August 1985, around 300 agents were used to search the houses and offices of dozens of pro-independence supporters and sympathizers. The agents made a massive display of weapons; dozens of houses were submitted to electronic surveillance for months in violation of the US Constitution and Puerto Rico's laws; tens of thousands of calls were taped; those arrested were taken out of Puerto Rico and brough to to trials in the mainland. The accused were kept in preventive detention for more than a year, and their most elemental rights were violated." (Puerto Rico Update, v5. #2, 1993)


On July 1994, the editor of the The Reporter on Latin America and The Caribbean wrote letters to Puerto Rican political prisoners held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. We asked them to give give us brief statements relating their sentences, personal data and messages for the readers. In many cases, our letters were never delivered to the prisoners. For all those prisoners who were not able to respond, we have marked their statement with an asterisk (*) and have completed the information mostly from the book Can't Jail the Spirit, Political Prisoners in the U.S., A Collection of Biographies.

Juan Segarra-Palmer. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1950. Married to Lucy Berríos. 5 children. Charge: Participation in the expropiation of a Wells Fargo depot in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 12, 1983. The expropriation, involving $7 million and claimed by Los Macheteros, was carried out to help finance the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence. Nobody was hurt during the expropriation. The leader of the action, Víctor Gerena, has not been captured. Juan was sentenced to 55 years and was eligible for parole in 1996. He has been denied parole since. Personal statement: "Without struggle there is no progress..."

Antonio Camacho-Negrón. Arrested by the FBI on March 21, 1986, in Rincón, Puerto Rico, 50 years old. Antonio is married and has four children. His profession, auto-mechanic. The US indicted Antonio for allegedly participating in the planning of the Wells Fargo expropriation and transporting stolen money out of the U.S. Sentence: 15 years. (*) Antonio was released on parole on February, 13, 1998, but was forced back in prison due to the intolerable condition of his parole.

Edwin Cortes. Edwin was arrested on June 29, 1983. Born in Chicago in 1955. Married, two children. Accused of being a member of the FALN. Charge: Seditious Conspiracy. Sentence: 35 years.

"I urge all peace and freedom loving people to support the human rights campaign for immediate release of all Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, according to a request for amnesty recently submitted to President Clinton. The U.S. government actively sought a resolution to the colonial and neo-colonial subjugation of South Africa and Palestine. Here at home, American voices are silent when it comes to the colonial domination of Puerto Rico. For the past 3 years, the U.S. government has pressured the United Nations Decolonization Committee to postpone its vote on the colonial case of Puerto Rico arguing that Puerto Rico was undergoing a process of decolonization. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a minimal act of good faith the U.S. government should free all Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war."

Elizam Escobar. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in 1948. On April 4, 1980 he was captured together with ten other comrades and charged with belonging to the FALN. They took a collective position to declare themselves prisoners of war and refused to participate in both state and federal trials. Charge: seditious conspiracy. Sentence: 64 years.

Elizam is considered to be an important Puerto Rican poet and painter. His works have been exhibited both in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. His paintings were exhibited in San Juan in May of 1994 under the name of "Transfixiones," sponsored by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. His personal statement: "Here the only crime is colonialism. We fought against this crime against humanity guided by the highest moral values of freedom and dignity. Colonialism not only means oppression, but also mediocrity and lack of compassion."

Ricardo Jiménez. "I was born on April 3, 1956 in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico. I've been in prison since April 4, 1980 due to my active political role for Puerto Rican independence. I was charged with seditious conspiracy -- the overthrow of United States government by force -- and related charges. I was sentenced to 98 years in prison and presently have a release date of November 2038.

The United States publicly declares it has no political prisoners and has traditionally demanded that other countries such as Cuba, South Africa, etc. release their political prisoners. However, these "champions of human rights" refuse to acknowledge that Puerto Rico is their colony and that in U.S. prisons there are men and women incarcerated for more than fourteen years for fighting for the inalienable right of Puerto Rican independence."

Oscar López-Rivera. Born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico in 1943. At age 14 was sent to live with his sister in Chicago. "I spent the first five years in Chicago trying to acclimate to what I considered a hostile environment. The culture clashes and the ethnic Europeans' desires to make us invisible were very prevalent." Captured in 1981 and sentenced to 55 years. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. In 1988, 15 more years were added to his sentence. Oscar has been a particular target of the prison system and has been kept in different high-security prisons, in conditions of sensorial depravation and isolation for years on end.

Adolfo Matos-Antongiorgi. "I was accused of seditious conspiracy [and sentenced to 78 years in prison]. In other words, they accused me of trying to overthrow the U.S. authority in Puerto Rico. The judge that sentenced me told me: "If I had the power to do it, I would send you to the electric chair." I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the imperialist courts to judge me as a common criminal under their domestic laws. I declared myself a Puerto Rican prisoner of war.

Today, our unwavering stance still represents a challenge to U.S. colonial power over Boricua territory. All people who believe in liberty and progress must denounce the hypocritical face of the U.S.: first in line to criticize the violation of human rights in other countries but refuses to acknowledge that it has prisoners of war in its own jails. I still demand from the U.S. respect for my fatherland's sovereignty and self-determination. ¡Ni con cárcel, ni con bala, esta lucha no se para! (You will not stop our struggle, neither with imprisonment nor with bullets!)"

Dylcia Pagán. Born in New York City in 1946. One son. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. Sentence: 8 years by the State of Illinois. 55 years by the Federals, total sentence: 63 years.

"Compañeros and compañeras, I have already been imprisoned many years for the crime of wanting freedom for my beloved country, Puerto Rico. As a freedom fighter, I must confess that sometimes I feel disillusioned about the lack of progress in my people's struggle for liberation. Our country is in the same condition if not worse than when the U.S. took it over in 1898.

In personal terms, It has been too many years since I have not been with my son Guillermo who was 13-months old when I was captured. We have paid dearly for our political beliefs. It's time for us to go back to our loved ones. I ask all people who believe in justice, please join the campaign for our freedom. I don't lose hope to be free. With love: Dylcia Pagán."

Alberto Rodriguez. Sentence: 35 years in maximum security federal penitentiaries. Alberto is one of the fourteen children of Manuel and Carmen Rodríguez. His family has lived in the same Chicago house for 28 years. He is the father of two, Yazmin Elena, 20, and Ricardo Alberto, 15.

Alberto and others were arrested in 1983 after continuous illegal surveillance by the FBI. They were charged with "seditious conspiracy". The government charged him with agreeing to commit an armed robbery, which never occurred; and, agreeing to assist in the escape of another Puerto Rican, which never occurred; collecting weapons and explosives, which were never used. Membership in the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (F.A.L.N). His petition for parole has been consistently denied.

Alicia Rodriguez. Born 1953 in Chicago, Illinois. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. Sentence: 85 years. "Puerto Rico's history is full of heroic men and women who sacrificed their lives to defend her dignity and self-determination. With so many years of incarceration and untold numbers to come, my heart remains set and I will continue to fight against one of the worst international crimes: colonialism." *

Ida Luz Rodriguez. Born in Las Marías, Puerto Rico, 1950. At the age of 2, her parents came to live in Chicago, Illinois. "On April 4, 1980, I was captured along with other comrades. I was given a consecutive state and federal sentence of 83 years for conspiracy to overthrow by force the government of the U.S. in Puerto Rico. As a Puerto Rican woman, I struggle for the liberation of my country in an effort to dismantle planetary colonialism but also patriarchy which is destroying the Earth." *

Luis Rosa. Born in Chicago, in 1960. Sentenced to 30 years on state charges and 75 years on federal charges. Total sentence:105 years. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. Since his capture, Luis has been transferred different times within eight high security prisons. Luis continued his studies while in prison and has achieved a Bachelors of Arts from Roosevelt University. Luis is a poet and a musician.

Alejandrina Torres. Born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico in 1939. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. Sentence: 35 years. Alejandrina has been imprisoned in different federal prison, among them Lexington, Kentucky where she faced continued physical and psychological torture designed to break her spirit and health. Alejandrina suffers from a condition called Left Bundle Branch Block and Mitral Valve Prolapse. She has been consistently denied proper medical care. After 11 years of isolation from her family, Alejandrina was transferred in 1994 from California to Connecticut.

Carlos Alberto Torres. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1952. Charge: Seditious conspiracy. Sentence: 78 years. "Our stance as prisoners of war is in acknowledgement of the international community statement, as well as that of the Puerto Rican liberation movement’s, that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Our stance as prisoners of war is an example of our faith in the capacity that our people, and their patriotic organizations, have in carrying out their roles as protagonists in bringing about justice for all Puerto Ricans." *

Carmen Valentín. Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in 1946. One son. Her parents came to the U.S. in 1956. Captured on April 4, 1980 in Evanston, Illinois. Charged with seditious conspiracy. Sentenced to 98 years. "My belief in the communist future of my country and ultimately of the world is still firm. My faith in you, my people, is equally firm. We are ready to continue resisting and fighting until final victory. Wherever I may be, I will always be happy and honored to serve our people as a fighter and an example for our oppressed masses. For a Free and Socialist Puerto Rico!" *


The sentences applied to the "independentistas" are extremely disproportionate even to the crimes they were accused of. Following is a table of their sentences:

Luis Rosa
Carmen Valentin
Ricardo Jimenez
Alicia Rodriguez
Ida Luz Rodriguez
Carlos Torres
Adolfo Matos
Oscar Lopez
Elizam Escobar
Dylcia Pagan
Edwin Cortes
Alberto Rodriguez
Alejandrina Torres

Juan Segarra
Antonio Camacho

105 years
98 years
98 years
85 years
83 years
78 years
78 years
70 years
68 years
63 years
35 years
35 years
35 years

65 years
15 years


It is very important to keep in contact with our prisoners, and to let them know they are in our hearts and are part of our struggle. The list below also shows that they are distributed all over the US, and in most cases, far away from their families and friends, making visits to them very difficult. This is yet one more instance of how the US prison system systematically violates the prisoners human rights.

Antonio Camacho Negrón
03587-069 (8E)
PO Box 019120
Miami, FL 33101-9120

Edwin Cortés
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837-1000

Elizam Escobar
PO Box 1500
El Reno, OK 73036

Ricardo Jiménez
PO Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808

Oscar López Rivera
PO Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808

Adolfo Matos Antongiorgi
88968-024 Unit J
3901 Klein Blvd.
Lompoc, CA 93436

Dylcia Pagán
5701 8th St., Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Alberto Rodríguez
92150-024 3A1
PO Box 26030
Beaumont, TX 77720-6030

Alicia Rodríguez
5701 8th St., Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Ida Luz Rodríguez
5701 8th St., Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Luis Rosa
PO Box 1000
Leavenworth, KS 66048

Juan Segarra Palmer
PO Box 819
FCI-Med. A-3/4
Coleman, FL 33521

Alejandrina Torres
FCI Danbury
Pembroke Station
Danbury, CT 06811

Carlos Alberto Torres
PO Box 1000
Oxford, WI 53952

Carmen Valentín
88974-024 Unit A
5701 8th St., Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568



Prisoners of Colonialism, by Ronald Fernandez. Common Courage Press. 1994. The number for credit card orders is 1-800-497-3207; for bookstores and wholesalers the number is 1-800-243-0138. Common Courage's number is 207-525-0900. All proceeds from Prisoners of Colonialism go the prisoners and their families.

Can't Jail the Spirit, Political Prisoners in the U.S., A collection of Biographies. Editorial El Coquí., 1992. Order from 1671 N. Claremont, Chicago, IL 60647. 312-342-8027.


Libertad. A Publication of the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners. 1112 N. California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622. 312-278-0885.

Puerto Rico Update. Newsletter of the U.S./Puerto Rico Solidarity Network. PO Box 350, Jerome Avenue Station, Bronx, NY 10468. 718-601-4751.

Local Contact:

Latinas & Latinos for Social Change. PO Box 1279, Cambridge, MA 02238