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September 08, 1999 at 9:53:09 EST

By J. R. de Szigethy

FALN, the Puerto Rican terrorist group that President Clinton has offered Clemency to 16 of it’s members, has ties to both the government of Fidel Castro and the Italian Mafia going back two decades. President Clinton unleashed a political firestorm recently when he announced plans to free these convicted members of the terrorist organization that, from 1974 to 1983, were responsible for 130 bomb attacks on American soil, murdering six innocents and wounding dozens in the process. FALN (the Armed Forces of National Liberation), whose goal is an independent, Communist Puerto Rico, was founded in Havana in 1974 and funded in part by cocaine and heroin shipments that passed from South America through Cuba and into the State of Florida, with some of the drugs later winding up in the hands of the Italian Mafia.

A Chicago Sun-Times article of April 16 1979 detailed the arrest in Chicago of Cuban refugee Luis Valdez on weapons charges. Valdez was named an associate of FALN bomber Carlos Alberto Torres, then on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. Valdez was believed involved in a turf war that had erupted between rival Cuban gangs in New York and Chicago, both fighting for the growing traffic of heroin and cocaine coming into the United States via Cuba. As many as twelve people had been murdered during the war, including an innocent bystander, 75 year old Mary Kesseler.

According to testimony before the United States Senate, Cuban Intelligence officer Filiberto Ojeda Rios founded FALN in Havana in 1974. One of the first acts of FALN was the 1975 bombing of the Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan, which killed four people and injured 60. In 1979, FALN operative Guillermo Morales was captured in New York. During that time, technology relating to the construction of explosive devices was just emerging, with many mishaps along the way. Such was the case with Morales; a bomb he was constructing had prematurely exploded, blowing away his fingers. Having no fingers to wrap around a rope dangling outside the window of his Bellevue Hospital Ward somehow did not hamper Morales, who thus made his escape and fled to Mexico City. There, Morales was captured in a shoot out with police that left one Mexico City police officer dead. Later, the government of Mexico outraged the United States government, as well as it’s own citizenry, by placing Morales on a plane bound for Havana, where he was granted asylum.

In 1980 Fidel Castro launched another plot against America, dumping onto our shores thousands of inmates from his prisons and insane asylums in the infamous Mariel boatlift. President Jimmy Carter refused to send the ‘Mariellitos’ back to Cuba and they quickly spread across America, bringing with them drug trafficking and violence. Many practiced Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion centered on animal sacrifice. Then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton agreed to let 20,000 Mariellito detainees to be housed at Fort Chaffe, Arkansas. When 1,000 Mariellitos rioted and escaped into the surrounding community, the voters of Arkansas were so outraged that they turned Clinton out of office in the election of 1982.

On New Year’s Eve 1983 FALN planted several bombs outside police headquarters in New York City. One bomb blew up near Detective Anthony Senft, who lost one eye, part of a finger and still suffers from hearing loss. Detective Rocco Pascarella lost a leg and Detective Salvatore Pastorella was also seriously injured.

One of the leading voices in the Hispanic community was investigative reporter Manuel de Dios, Editor of America’s largest circulation Spanish newspaper, El Diario. When de Dios wrote an article critical of the FALN, a bomb was detonated in the lobby of El Diario in response, although no one was injured. De Dios would later be murdered in New York City on the orders of Colombian drug lord Jose Londono, about whom de Dios had also written. Many who have followed the de Dios murder believe that the government of Cuba was also involved in the decision to murder the courageous journalist. In 1996 Londono bribed his way out of prison and President Clinton sent CIA Director John Deutsch to Colombia to personally supervise the search for Londono. When the drug lord was at last tracked down, Londono died in a shoot out with the authorities.

When the announcement came that President Clinton was offering Clemency to 16 FALN convicts, reaction was swift and universally condemning, with many claiming the offer was a political move to gain votes in the Hispanic community for Hillary Clinton, who is running for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated next year by the retiring Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Senator Moynihan was among the many community leaders to condemn the proposal, including New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Senator Paul Coverdell of Georgia and Congressman Vito Fossella of New York have announced they will push for Congressional Hearings into Clinton’s proposed Clemency plan.

Victims of FALN bombings were also eager to speak out. Retired NYPD Detective Anthony Senft told the Associated Press; “There’s a Senate race going on and I believe in my heart that votes in the race have a lot to do with clemency being offered at this time!” Detective Rocco Pascarella told the New York Daily News that Clemency would “send a sign across the world that the U. S. A. was getting soft on terrorism!” Said Joe O’Connor, whose father was killed in the 1975 Manhattan bombing; “It makes me sick!” “Is my father’s life worth less than his (Clinton’s) wife’s election?”

Law enforcement organizations have also denounced the Clinton Clemency plan. James Fotis, Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, denounced Clinton’s action as “a ploy to garner support for Hillary Clinton’s Senate bid!” Joe Occhipinti, the Executive Director of the National Police Defense Foundation said his organization would launch it’s own investigation into the Clinton proposal.

Further enraging many following this story has been the admission by several of the 16 convicted terrorists that they will not renounce violence as a condition of their release. Among them is Oscar Lopez, who is currently serving his 70-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, where his fellow inmates include John Gotti. “I have no regrets for what I’ve done in the Puerto Rico independence movement,” the FALN leader told the press.

Finally realizing that the Clemency offer was a political disaster, Hillary Clinton urged her husband to abandon this proposal. Said Texas Senator Phil Gramm to the Media; “This was an effort by the President, by the first lady, to manipulate politics in New York. I think it blew up in their face!”

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