Carmen Valentín Pérez

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Carmen Hilda Valentín Pérez Puerto Rican member of the FALN (a Pro-Independence group which fought for Puerto Rico's Independence from the United States during the 1970s) who received a sentence of 90 years for seditious conspiracy and other charges. She was sentenced on February 18, 1981, and incarcerated in a U.S. federal prison. However, she was released early from prison, after President Bill Clinton extended a clemency offer to her on September 7, 1999.[1]

Early years[edit]

Carmen Valentín Pérez was born in Camuy, Puerto Rico, on March 2, 1946 and emigrated with her family to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. She graduated from Providence/St.Mel High School in 1965, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Northeastern Illinois University and a Masters of Arts in Counselling from Roosevelt University. At the time of her arrest by the U.S. Government on seditious conspiracy charges was completing her Doctorate from Loyala University in Chicago.

Professional career[edit]

Teaching[edit]

Valentín Pérez became active[when?] in the community as a young teacher at Tuley High School/Roberto Clemente High School, where she fought against racism and an educational curriculum based on ignorance of the Puerto Rican reality. While working as a teacher Valentín Pérez came into conflict with the Board of Education because the school was in the midst of a crisis brought about by a racist principal and the lack of a relevant curriculum for Puerto Rican students. The community with the help of Ms. Valentin and other community leaders forced the Chicago Board of Education to transfer the principal, Herbert Fink and introduced Puerto Rican history and culture in the school's curriculum.[2]

Community activist[edit]

Valentín Pérez worked[when?] at the Central YMCA Community College. She sponsored both the Iranian Student Association and the Organization of Arab Students during an intense period of conflict and controversy which led to many physical confrontations with the local police as well as with the Shah's secret police. In the community she worked to defeat the Chicago 21 Plan. She was a founding member and president of the José de Diego Bilingual Center and was on the board of directors of Aspira of Illinois. Valentín Pérez was also a founding member of the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Puerto Rican Cultural Center.[2] Ms. Valentín Pérez helped develop various educational and cultural programs for inmates at the maximum security prison for men at Stateville, Illinois.[2]

Arrest and jailing[edit]

Seditious conspiracy[edit]

In 1980 Valentin was arrested, charged with seditious conspiracy and related charges, and sentenced to 90 years. Her release date was scheduled for 2043.[2]

Valentín Pérez and 11 others were arrested on April 4, 1980, in Evanston, Illinois. They had been linked to more than 100 bombings or attempted bombings since 1974 in their attempt to achieve independence for Puerto Rico.[1] At their trial proceedings, all of the arrested declared their status as prisoners of war, and refused to participate in the proceedings.[3][4]

None of the bombings of which they were convicted resulted in deaths or injuries.[1] Valentin was given a 90-year federal sentence for seditious conspiracy and other charges.[5] Among the other convicted Puerto Rican nationalists there were sentences of as long as 90 years in Federal prisons for offenses including sedition, possession of unregistered firearms, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, interference with interstate commerce by violence and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a crime.[1] None of those granted clemency were convicted in any of the actual bombings. Rather, they had been convicted on a variety of charges ranging from bomb making and conspiracy to armed robbery and firearms violations.[6] They were all convicted for sedition, the act of attempting to overthrow the Government of the United States in Puerto Rico by force.[5][7]

Human rights violations charge[edit]

There were reports of human rights violations against the FALN prisoners. Some were sexually assaulted by prison personnel, some were denied adequate medical attention, and others were kept in isolated underground prison cells for no reason. Amnesty International and the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice both criticized the conditions. The conditions were found to be in violation of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.[2]

Political prisoner[edit]

The sentences received by Valentín Pérez and the other Nationalists were judged to be "out of proportion to the nationalists' offenses."[1] Statistics showed their sentences were almost 20 times greater than sentences for similar offenses by the American population at large.[2][8]

For many years, numerous national and international organizations criticized Carmen Valentin's incarceration categorizing it as political imprisonment.[9][10] Carmen Valentín Pérez was finally released from prison on September 10, 1999,[11] after President Bill Clinton extended her clemency.[12] Clinton cited Rev. Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter as having been influential on his decision to grant Valentin the clemency offer.[13][14] Cases involving the release of other Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners have also been categorized as cases of political prisoners, with some[15][16][17][18] being more vocal than others.[19][20][21]

In criticizing President Clinton's decision to release the Puerto Rican prisoners, the conservative U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee also categorized Valenin as a "Puerto Rican Nationalist", echoing a recent Newsweek article.[22] In 2006, the United Nations called for the release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners in United States prisons.[23]

Today[edit]

Today, Valentin Perez works as an English tutor and teacher at the Colegio Universitario de San Juan (CUSJ), where she has worked since 2003. She started at this educational institution one year after leaving prison. “We try to help them so that they can graduate from the university. They come mostly from the public schools of Puerto Rico. The students take two year in the health field and other take four year bachelor degrees in nursing. I really like my work as an educator, and would like to work here until I retire in a few years. Ms. Valentin still makes presentations on Puerto Rican television and radio on the need for Puerto Rican independence and the freedom of the political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera, who has been in prison for 32 years.

Personal life[edit]

Her decision to return to Puerto Rico after her release was above all about family and love for her homeland. She said, “I felt like I had work to do here, caring for my mother and grand-daughter, Karina Lopez Valentin. Additionally, I always wanted to come back to live here. I never wanted to live in the United States, which I never liked anything about— not the climate, not the food, not the atmosphere. The only reason I stayed there was my involvement with the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico.”[24] However, she often still visits the States as her only son, Antonio and the rest of her grandchildren live in Chicago.[24]

Political stance[edit]

Valentín Pérez feels hopeful about the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people and its political future. She says that lately the patriotic fervor that people have felt fills her with hope: “There will never be statehood here. Now I feel it, I see it, and I’m living it. This coming year, the situation will be good because there are so many disastrous policies, like firing thousands of people and the sinister plans this administration has for the Ecological Corridor. They’re trying to destabilize and destroy everything, and Puerto Rico will rise up,” said Valentin.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "12 Imprisoned Puerto Ricans Accept Clemency Conditions" by John M. Broder. The New York Times September 8, 1999
  2. ^ a b c d e f "ProLIBERTAD. ''ProLIBERTAD Campaign for the Freedom of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War: Arm the Spirit'' 30 October 1995". Hartford-hwp.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ Prendergast, Alan. End of the Line. Denver Westword, July 12, 1995. Retrieved on November 21, 2008
  4. ^ ''The Puerto Rican movement: voices from the diaspora.'' By Andrés Torres. Temple University Press. 1998. Page 147. Google Books. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "United States Department of Justice. Office of the Pardon Attorney: Commutations of Sentences". Justice.gov. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ "CNN. Eleven Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed from Prison.'' September 10, 1999". CNN. September 10, 1999. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ Hanley, Charles J. (May 10, 1998). "The Seattle Times.''Puerto Rican Inmate Has No Regrets For His Terrorist Actions.'' By Charles J. Hanley. May 10, 1998". Community.seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  8. ^ ''The Puerto Rican movement: voices from the diaspora.'' By Andrés Torres. Temple University Press. 1998. Page 149. Google Books. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  9. ^ Peoples Law Office. Puerto Rico.
  10. ^ "Cable News Network (CNN). ''Eleven Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed from Prison.'' September 10, 1999". CNN. September 10, 1999. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Federal Bureau of Prisons. U.S. Department of Justice. Inmate Locator". Bop.gov. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  12. ^ "United States Department of Justice. Press Release. August 11, 1999". Justice.gov. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ "CNN. ''FALN prisoners another step closer to freedom: Clinton condemned on Capitol Hill for clemency.'' September 9, 1999". CNN. September 9, 1999. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed From Prison" by Charles Babington. The Washington Post September 11, 1999, Page A2.]
  15. ^ 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 June 13, 2006.) The Approved Text reads, in part, "As in previous years, ...the Special Committee called on the President of the United States to release Puerto Rican political prisoners..." (page 1)
  16. ^ Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York. Guide to the Ruth M. Reynolds Papers: Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. August 1991 and December 2003. Updated 2005. Archived July 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Reviews Puerto Rico – U.S. relations, including cases of Puerto Rican political prisoners.
  17. ^ Vito Marcantonio, U.S. Congressman. In his August 5, 1939, speech before Congress titled Five Years of Tyranny. (Recorded in the Congressional Record. August 14, 1939.) Archived January 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. In the words of Congressman Marcantonio, "There is no place in America for political prisoners...When we ask ourselves, 'Can it happen here?' the Puerto Rican people can answer, 'It has happened in Puerto Rico.' as he spoke about the treatment of Puerto Rican Nationalist and U.S. prisoner Pedro Albizu Campos. Retrieved August 28, 2010.
  18. ^ Chicago Sun-Times. Puerto Rican community celebrates release of political prisoner. Archived July 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Report states, "Chicago's Puerto Rican community celebrates the release of political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres..."
  19. ^ "Fox News Network. ''Puerto Rican Nationalist Sentenced to 7 Years for 1983 Wells Fargo Robbery in Conn.'' May 26, 2010". Fox News. April 7, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  20. ^ Danica Coto (July 28, 2010). "The Huffington Post. ''Carlos Alberto Torres, Puerto Rican Nationalist Imprisoned In Illinois For 30 Years, Returns Home To Puerto Rico .'' July 28, 2010". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  21. ^ Martin, Douglas (August 3, 2010). "The New York Times. ''Lolita Lebrón, Puerto Rican Nationalist, Dies at 90''. By Douglas Martin. August 3, 2010". The New York Times. Puerto Rico. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  22. ^ "U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee. ''Al Gore: Quick to Condemn "Arms-for-Hostages," but What About "Terrorists-for-Votes?"'' September 21, 1999". Rpc.senate.gov. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  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 June 13, 2006.)
  24. ^ a b c Carmen Valentín: “The historical moment I was living in presented me with this option of struggle, and I accepted it”. Vanesa Baerga. National Boricua Human Rights Network. December 22, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2011.