FBI HARASSMENT OF THE JUAN RIUS RIVERA BRIGADE
ANNUAL SOLIDARITY TRIP WITH CUBA FROM PUERTO RICO IN STRUGGLE
Goodnight. Trusting in your understanding, I will speak to you in the official language that the resistance has imposed in Puerto Rico, Spanish with an English translation that will be done by Professor Deborah Santana, a collaborator of the Committee of Solidarity with Cuba and a member of the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade, so that everyone will be able to understand our message.
First of all, our deep gratitude for inviting us to this activity to denounce the FBI's harassment of our Brigade and for all the expressions of support received. Participation in an activity sponsored by various organizations and groups in New York encourages us in this long struggle for freedom that Puerto Ricans are carrying out. We are faithful believers that unity in diversity strengthens us and that solidarity among peoples is a flag that we must hold high above any adversity, threat, or situation. For this, we thank you again. A very special greeting to the other panelists who honor me with their participation. We are one voice in the face of imperial evil, and we will all raise the flag of solidarity with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Humanity.
Second, and no less important, I want to dedicate my presence in New York to a brother that we physically lost but will never forget, comrade Frank Velgara, who will always be present in the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico, in solidarity with Cuba and with every just cause.
Unfortunately, I must add in this dedication two other comrades that we just lost a few days ago, I am referring to Attorney Edgardo Román Espada, president of the Committee for Human Rights of Puerto Rico and who had been accompanying us since day one of this FBI harassment of the Brigade, and the dear sister in the struggle from the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, Aleida Centeno, one of our Las Lolitas.
For these three I do not ask for a minute of silence, but for the commitment of a lifetime of struggle, and that we honor them at this time with a round of applause.
The FBI has a long history in Puerto Rico of persecuting pro-independence sectors, and its hands are bloody with the murder of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos on September 23, 2005, 20 years after the agency’s brazen invasion of our homes.
I clearly remember the actions of the FBI in Puerto Rico when it illegally invaded dozens of homes on October 30, 1985, to arrest part of the group of Macheteros. We witnessed how the community where I live was invaded and the abuses that were committed.
So as far as the actions of the FBI, which is dedicated to persecuting those who struggle, nothing surprises us, not even their harassment of the Brigade. From time to time, they make a fuss against corrupt politicians, but ultimately the FBI is the political police of the United States government to maintain the Imperial Order.
The Juan Rius Rivera Brigade was established in 1991 and the thirty-first Brigade traveled to Cuba in July of this year for a month. We tried to fulfill the programs of the 2020 and 2021 Brigades, which were unable to travel due to the pandemic, but we kept them alive based on the idea that the Brigade is not just a trip to Cuba, but a Solidarity project.
This last brigade of July 2022, for having had to overcome so many difficulties, we call it the VICTORY BRIGADE and we dedicate it to the hero of our country, OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA, and to the FIVE CUBAN ANTI-TERROISTS, Antonio, Gerardo, Fernando, Ramón, and René.
In the first act of the Brigade, we managed to bring the 5 together with Oscar at the Fidel Castro Ruz Center, recognize the Cuban doctors and remember another of our heroes RAFAEL CANCEL MIRANDA. That must have quite upset the imperialists and their lackeys.
The entire program of the brigade is public, and its memories are published on social networks. The donations that we legitimately collect are carried by the Brigade with great difficulty, due to the limitations of being able to travel freely and normally to Cuba, and also due to the colonial condition of Puerto Rico. But they are not commercial relationships, and are not prohibited or illegal. They are legitimate actions and in defiance of the blockade laws. Trying to criminalize solidarity is another terrorist act for those who impose a criminal blockade on the Cuban people. The government of the United States is a terrorist and criminal government.
When the Brigade arrives in Puerto Rico, the Solidarity with Cuba Committee begins to prepare the reunion of brigade members, which helps to carry out solidarity actions after the trip.
A few days after our arrival, on August 5, the tragedy occurred in the Supertank in Matanzas, and almost immediately we started a national collection. It was made public on August 11 and on Friday August 12 someone called from the United States - we still don't know who - and they closed our account, preventing the contribution that thousands of Puerto Ricans would have made to Cuba in the face of the terrible tragedy.
Shortly after, from August 23 to 26, the FBI began an operation in different parts of the island to visit brigade members or telephone them to investigate if they had traveled with the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade, if they knew María Milagros (that's me) - who they were investigating violations of a federal law but they never said which one; they told the Brigade members that they wanted to talk to them in some other quiet place, to have a coffee (as if they were planning a kidnapping), that they were investigating that the Brigade was infiltrated by Cuban security agents, among other such nonsense.
Some of the agents did not even want to identify themselves and spoke of informal summonses to the brigade members... The reality was that they were doing an operation to intimidate the brigade members, preparing a fabrication of a case against leaders of the Brigade and the Committee, as well as trying to undermine the participation of people in future brigades. Criminalizing trips to Cuba and solidarity.
They visited or called more than 60 people in San Juan, Toa Baja, Carolina, Humacao, Patillas, Ponce, Cayey, and Utuado, among other places where the brigadistas reside. They tried to interview young people from our cultural delegation, creating an atmosphere of intimidation with their fathers and mothers. They also visited and called some people from the Committee for Solidarity with Cuba who had not traveled with the Brigade, trying to make them believe that another person interviewed had identified them as organizers of the Brigade. These 4 days of harassment of the brigade members, by twelve (12) to fifteen (15) FBI agents, must have cost a lot of money. Now, what that FBI gang did not count on was the quick response of the Committee for Solidarity with Cuba, the solidarity received and the discipline of the members of the Brigade.
From the first moment that we learned about this FBI operation, we sought legal advice and made public statements. The brigadistas followed the instructions, the main one being that they had NOTHING to talk about with the FBI. That any summons had to be formal and not by means of phone calls or on pieces of paper torn from notebooks. The reports received and that we delivered to our legal advisors, shows the firm conduct of the brigade members. Now at this moment, as far as we know, NOBODY lent themselves to help the FBI in their so-called investigation, which was aimed at fabricating a case to try to undermine solidarity with Cuba from Puerto Rico. The entire brigade repudiated this attempt by the FBI to harass us in our homes.
We gathered national and international support, and the response was immediate, including from many of you. Here I want to highlight the great support received from the compañeras and compañeros of El Militante who kept denouncing the situation and traveled to Puerto Rico in those days. Thank you for saying ¡Presente! and keeping the protest alive. Thanks to all the diaspora that struggles for freedom and to the solidarity movement with Cuba in the United States, Canada, and the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Network for so many demonstrations of solidarity with the Brigade and in turn with the liberation cause of Puerto Rico.
The PUERTO RICO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE organized a well-attended press conference, and we received the support of more than 60 national and international organizations. Solidarity multiplied from Cuba and from the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Network of Solidarity with Cuba as well. Your denunciation here in the United States was essential to stop this abuse against solidarity militancy in Puerto Rico. To sum up, for the moment we have been able to stop the operation.
But we Caribbean men and women know what the eye of the hurricane is like, an apparent calm and then to hit harder. We know that having temporarily stopped the FBI with the public denunciation of its harassment of our people, does not necessarily mean that it stopped pursuing their campaign of persecution to continue trying to criminalize solidarity with Cuba in Puerto Rico - and also in the United States, you have vast experience with those persecutions.
So that we will not be surprised later, the Committee of Solidarity with Cuba has decided, together with other organizations, to develop a campaign to put the FBI in the dock of the accused before the people. Denouncing their persecutions and crimes is mandatory, and do not let your guard down. Call on all voices to help us stop this infamy against solidarity with Cuba; and we remain firm in organizing the next Brigade that will have a Great Meeting of the Continental Network in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 2023, the 70th anniversary of Moncada and the 125th anniversary of the Yankee invasion of Puerto Rico. We also invite you to meet us all in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 2023.
The empire has a plan, and we also have ours that essentially includes what was expressed by José Martí in 1892 and that applies very well to the case of the liberation struggle in Puerto Rico today, and we quote:
“Our enemy obeys a plan: to enrage us, dispense with us, divide us, drown us. That is why we obey another plan: teach ourselves up to our full height, embrace us, join us, thwart them, finally make our homeland free. Plan against plan.”
Our plan, in general terms, will be to continue the struggle, more united, coordinated and delivering accurate blows until we manage to eliminate this criminal blockade that is the longest genocidal act in history against any people.
In the particular case of Puerto Rico, invaded by the United States 124 years ago, we will continue to fight for the freedom of our Homeland, social equality, and we will vigorously defend the legacy of reciprocal and centuries-old solidarity between the Cuban and Puerto Rican people. The FBI will not intimidate us.
No empire will prevent solidarity between Cuba and Puerto Rico. No empire will defeat the unity of the peoples. This is why we are here to embrace them in struggle and brotherhood.
Thank you very much.
PEOPLES UNITED AGAINST THE EMPIRE – WE WILL WIN
LONG LIVE CUBA – STOP THE BLOCKADE!
LONG LIVE FREE PUERTO RICO!
Milagros Rivera Perez
October 28, 2022, NY