Carlos Alberto Torres (Puerto Rican Nationalist)

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Carlos Alberto Torres
Born (1952-09-19)September 19, 1952
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Movement Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN)

Carlos Alberto Torres (born September 19, 1952) is a member of Puerto Rico's independence movement.[1] He was convicted and sentenced to 78 years in a U.S. federal prison for seditious conspiracy - conspiring to use force against the lawful authority of the United States.[2] He served 30 years, being released on July 26, 2010.[3]

Crimes and Convictions[edit]

Torres was convicted of a seditious conspiracy carried out by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), which claimed responsibility for numerous bombings, which led to six deaths.[4][5] Torres was first linked to the criminal conspiracy carried out by the FALN in 1976. That year, a burglar was arrested in Chicago attempting to peddle stolen explosives. The burglar led the Chicago police to an apartment, owned by Torres, and nearly void of furniture, but in which there were boxes containing explosives and bomb-making paraphernalia, weapons, clothing, wigs, and photographs of Chicago buildings, maps of the city, and several FALN documents, including a manual for guerrilla warfare detailing deceptive practices and rules of clandestine living titled Posición Política. This bomb factory was also linked to Oscar López Rivera and his wife, Ida Luz Rodriguez, as well as to Torres' wife, Haydee Torres Beltran. All four became fugitives after this discovery.The four suspects were also linked to the National Commission on Hispanic Affairs (NCHA) of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a charitable organization based in New York City that was meant to fund projects to assist Hispanic communities all over the United States.

The next break in the investigation, occurred in 1977, when 11 FALN members, including Carlos Torres and his wife, were arrested during a planned robbery of armored truck in Evanston, Illinois. The case of his wife, Torres Beltran, was adjudicated in New York, because fingerprint evidence was able to identify her as the person placing the bomb that killed 26 year old Charles Prendergast at the Mobil office building in New York. Carlos Torres and most of the others arrested in Evanston were convicted of seditious conspiracy among other charges.[6]

Some point out that Torres himself was never convicted of participating in specific bombings, or of specifically being involved in causing any deaths.[7] He was released on 26 July 2010, after 30 years in prison.[7] In the 1970s Torres was listed for three years as one of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives during the 1970s.[8]

Education[edit]

While in jail, Torres obtained a university degree, worked in the Department of Education, and became a painter and artesan.[2]

Severity of his sentence[edit]

Some partisans claim Torres is among the longest-serving Puerto Rican political prisoner. One other FALN prisoner that remains incarcerated is Oscar López Rivera, who has spent 33 years, 6 months and 21 days[9] behind bars.[2] López Rivera and Torres both had years added to their sentences due to a violent conspiracy to escape from prison.[10] In 1999, The continued incarceration of Torres was strongly supported in a resolution that labeled the FALN as a terrorist organization. The resolution to oppose clemency for FALN members was approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the US House of Representatives (in a vote of 311 in favor and 41 against)[11] and the Senate (95-2).[12][13]

Several human rights organizations including the American Association of Jurists called for the release of Alberto Torres.[14] Torres was not included in the President Bill Clinton's 1999 clemency offer to others FALN members.[15]

President Clinton said he refused to commute Torres' sentence because he "was identified as the leader of the group, and had made statements that he was involved in a revolution against the United States and that his actions had been legitimate."[5] Torres spent 30 years as a political prisoner and, had he not been paroled in May, 2010, he would have been jailed until 2024.[16]

Release proceedings[edit]

In January, 2009, Carlos Alberto Torres was scheduled for a parole hearing, after serving 29 years behind bars. On the eve of his hearing, prison authorities accused him and eight of his cellmates of possessing knives which the tenth cellmate had hidden in the light fixture of the cell. On July 28, the Parole board notified Carlos Alberto that they would postpone their decision for at least 90 days, pending resolution of the charges. Two days later, the prison disciplinary hearing officer held hearings on the weapons charges. Alberto’s defense consisted not merely of his statement denying possession. The tenth cellmate appeared as a witness, admitting that the knives were his, and his alone, and that Carlos Alberto and none of the other cellmates knew he had hidden the knives in the light fixture. The guilty party also provided a sworn statement to this effect. The disciplinary hearing officer nevertheless found them guilty of possessing the hidden weapons.[17]

Parole and release[edit]

Torres was granted parole in May 2010, and released on July 26, 2010. Torres flew to his homeland island of Puerto Rico on 29 July to a hero's welcome.[5] An activity was organized at the Don Pedro Albizu Campos Park, located across the street from the Tenerías sector of Barrio Machuelo Abajo, Ponce, where Torres was born on September 1, 1952.[2] This is the same place in Ponce where Pedro Albizu Campos, another independence advocate, was born.

Other prisoners[edit]

Marie Haydée Beltrán Torres, wife of Torres, was arrested alongside her husband in Illinois. She tried in New York and convicted to life in prison for the 1977 FALN bombing of the Mobil Oil Building in Manhattan that killed one person and injured several others. Torres was linked by a fingerprint on a job application she filled at the Mobil building just before the bombing.[18] Torres was released on April 14, 2009.[19]

Oscar Lopez Rivera who, like Torres, also became a fugitive in 1976, was arrested in 1981. He was also convicted of seditious conspiracy due to his participation in the FALN, as well as other offenses. He served 12 years of a 70-year sentence in isolation. Nevertheless, he rejected Clinton’s conditioned offer of an early release and remains in prison. His projected release date is scheduled for June 26, 2023.[20]

Another Puerto Rican nationalist who was jailed is Avelino González-Claudio. He was the leader of the Federation of University Students pro Independence (FUPI) and the Pro Independence Movement (MPI) during the years he spent in New York. In 1985, González Claudio was accused in abstencia of having planned a $6 million robbery to Wells Fargo in Hartford, Connecticut, as a member of the Macheteros. He was apprehended in 2008, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.[2][21] He was released on February 5, 2013.[22] Since 2006, the United Nations has called for the release of all Puerto Rican political prisoners in United States prisons.[23]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Cemicerámica - Art by Carlos Alberto Torres

References[edit]

  1. ^ La Prensa San Diego. By Marjorie Cohn. The Incarceration of Carlos Alberto Torres: After 30 Years in Prison, the Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Will Be Freed.. Vol. XXXIII. July 30, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Puerto Rico Daily Sun. Political prisoner to be released. July 17, 2010.
  3. ^ Primera Hora. By Leoncio Pineda Dattari. Saldrá en Libertad Preso Político Puertorriqueño Carlos Alberto Torres. July 16, 2010.
  4. ^ The Los Angeles Times. 11 Arrested as Puerto Rican Terrorists. April 6, 1980.
  5. ^ a b c The San Francisco Chronicle. Violent nationalist group leader welcomed in Puerto Rico. By Danica Coto. July 27, 2010.
  6. ^ Effects and effectiveness of law enforcement intelligence measures to counter homegrown terrorism: A case study on the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN); Roberta Belli, Final Report to the Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, August 2012, page 16.
  7. ^ a b CounterPunch, 26 July 2010, The Incarceration of Carlos Alberto Torres
  8. ^ "A Chronological Listing of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" March 14, 1950 – January 1, 2000". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 2002-01-27. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  9. ^ Puerto Rico: Free Oscar López Rivera! Steven Katsineris. Green Left Weekly. Issue 879. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  10. ^ Effects and effectiveness of law enforcement intelligence measures to counter homegrown terrorism: A case study on the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN); Roberta Belli, Final Report to the Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, August 2012.
  11. ^ Congressional Record — House H8019
  12. ^ The Clintons' Terror Pardons by Debra Burlingame, for Wall Street Journal, updated Feb. 12, 2008.
  13. ^ "Congressional Record — Senate S18018
  14. ^ "American Association of Jurists calls for release of Puerto Rican political prisoners". National Boricua Human Rights Network. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  15. ^ "FALN prisoners set free". CNN. September 10, 1999. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  16. ^ Primera Hora. By Leoncio Pineda Dattari. Saldrá en Libertad Preso Político Puertorriqueño Carlos Alberto Torres. July 16, 2010.
  17. ^ Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres: parole bid foiled by Bureau of Prisons
  18. ^ Reading Eagle, Associated Press article, dated September 8, 1977.
  19. ^ Federal Bureaus of Prisons Inmate Locator
  20. ^ Federal Bureau of Prisons. U.S. Department of Justice. Immate Locator.
  21. ^ FoxNews. Puerto Rican nationalist sentenced to 7 years for 1983 Wells Fargo robbery in Conn. May 26, 2010.
  22. ^ http://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/
  23. ^ United Nations General Assembly. Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Calling on United States to Expedite Puerto Rican Self-determination Process: Draft Resolution Urges Probe of Pro-Independence Leader’s Killing, Human Rights Abuses; Calls for Clean-up, Decontamination of Vieques. June 12, 2006.(GA/COL/3138/Rev.1*). Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York. Special Committee on Decolonization, 8th & 9th Meetings. (Issued on 13 June 2006.)