In the latest friction between federal agents and the Puerto Rican independence movement, the FBI busted a veteran militant in San Juan yesterday for allegedly violating the terms of his release from federal prison.
The timing of Antonio Camacho Negron’s arrest makes independentistas suspicious, because it comes a few months after movement member Filiberto Ojeda-Rios was killed in a federal raid, and a few weeks after the feds served search warrants on several independence figures and clashed with onlookers and the media.
Negron’s legal troubles date back to the 1983 Wells Fargo robbery in Connecticut.
He was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the heist, but was released early for good behavior in 1998. According to press accounts, he was jailed again later that year for violating his parole by associating with other members of the movement. He refused the clemency offers that President Clinton made to several imprisoned independence figures in 1999, and was released again in 2002.
FBI Agent Harry Rodriguez, spokesman for the bureau’s office in Puerto Rico, tells the Voice that after that release, Negron failed to register with the local parole office; he was re-arrested in April 2003 and jailed for another 16 months. Freed from federal prison for the third time on August 17, 2004, he allegedly failed once again to register with his local parole office. A warrant was issued three days later and Negron’s been a fugitive since.
Back in October, in the immediate aftermath of the Ojeda-Rios raid, rumors that Negron’s arrest was imminent roiled the independence movement, which believes that the recent events are part of a crackdown. At the time, Negron issued a statement saying, “I feel that the FBI will make an attempt on my life and justify it with the fabricated lies in pursuit of the information I have shared with various elements of the Puerto Rican media, as well as to quell the revolutionary spirit that has been activated by Filiberto’s death.” Many Puerto Rican independence activists reject the conditions of their release from U.S. custody because they do not recognize the authority of the federal government over the island.
The recent events in Puerto Rico are the subjects of FBI internal investigations and an inquiry by some members of Congress.
Rodriguez says he does not know why Negron was pinched at this particular time, given that the warrant on him is more than 18 months old. The feds nabbed him as he exited his car.
As a parole violator at large, Negron’s capture would have been the responsibility of the U.S. Marshals Service.
As a parole violator in custody, Negron won’t see a judge but will instead have a hearing before parole commissioners. He is currently being held in Guaynabo, P.R., awaiting that hearing.