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Puerto Rican Independence Leader Killed by FBI

Sparking heated controversy, the FBI shot and killed longtime Puerto Rican independence leader 72-year-old Filiberto Ojeda Rios on Friday, Sept. 23.

The FBI said that the killing occurred after Ojeda Rios opened fire on agents during a stakeout of his West Puerto Rican farmhouse, but independence activists are accusing the FBI of a targeted political assassination.

"They did not come to arrest Filiberto Ojeda, they came to kill him," said Hector Pesquera, president of the Hostosiano independence movement, at a recent press conference.

Ojeda Rios died from a bullet wound to his shoulder that went out through the middle of his back, piercing his lung, according to an autopsy, said Justice Secretary Roberto Sanchez Ramos in a CNN interview. Sanchez Ramos criticized the FBI for refusing to allow four local prosecutors to enter the farmhouse after the shootout.

"The information we have is that if Mr. Ojeda had received immediate medical attention after being shot, he probably would have survived," he said.

The agents waited until the next day to enter the farmhouse, according to the FBI, because they were unsure if explosives were inside and were waiting for an explosives team to arrive.

Ojeda Rios became active in the movement for Puerto Rican nationalism while performing as a trumpet player in Chicago in the mid-1960s. In1967 he founded and led the Armed Revolutionary Independence Movement. He was later a key organizer with the FALN, the Armed Forces of National Liberation, and the Boricua Popular Army, popularly known as Los Macheteros.

The FBI, who labeled Ojeda a terrorist, has sought his arrest since 1990, when he cut off his electronic ankle bracelet while awaiting trial for his involvement in the 1983 $7 million Wells Fargo truck heist in West Hartford, Conn., that funded his political endeavors.

The region’s Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila, whose Popular Democratic Party does not support nationalism, declared his “deep indignation” and demanded an explanation from the FBI for the killing.

“As governor, I make an energetic demand to the federal authorities to end the silence that they have maintained in relation to these events,” Acevedo Vila said.