Ali's Last Letter

Ali Nebot - Puerto Rico

Ali Nebot - Puerto Rico

Since my term ends on November 30, this will be my last letter as a full time missionary. It’s difficult to believe that three years passed already. It has been a wonderful experience and I’m most grateful to God and Global Ministries for the opportunity to serve the church in this capacity. I would like to inform you that once my itineration ends on May, 2006 I will retire, but will continue serving on a volunteer basis.

As I write, Puerto Rico is in the midst of turmoil because of the shooting of Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the FBI. Mr. Ojeda Rios was a prominent Puerto Rican independence activist wanted for offenses in the USA.  According to the FBI, he was killed during an exchange of gunfire in which an agent was wounded. However, his body was not recovered until the FBI entered his house twenty-four hours after the shoot out. An autopsy reportedly found that Ojeda Rios did not die in the shoot out, but bled to death sometime later. The FBI denied any wrong doing, saying that its agents were instructed to wait for backup before entering the house because of a fear that it might contain explosives. These circumstances have been disputed by Ojeda Rios wife (the only witness to the incident) who claimed that the FBI agents went inside the farmhouse and shot Ojeda Rios during the initial confrontation. At the time of his death, Mr. Ojeda Rios was 72 years old and wore a pacemaker.

Amnesty International in Puerto Rico immediately informed AI headquarters in London requesting a statement from Amnesty International. AI statement issued on September 27 stated that “if the FBI deliberately killed Filiberto Ojeda Rios or deliberately left him to die, when they could have arrested him, this would be an extrajudicial execution.  Under international standards, law enforcement officers should use firearms in response to an immediate threat of death or serious injury when non-violent measures have been exhausted or are ineffective.  Warning should be given if possible where firearms are used, and anyone injured by force or firearms should receive prompt medical attention.”

Amnesty International called for an independent investigation by the office of the inspector general of the Justice Department where in the interest of public confidence, transparency and the integrity of all involved, it must be conducted with the utmost impartiality.  All the circumstances should be reviewed and make the finding public at the earliest opportunity.
The whole incident stirred many emotions in the island. It reminded Puerto Ricans of its colonial relationship with the USA when the local government claimed that it was never notified of this operative by the FBI. In other words an FBI agent had more authority than the governor of the island. 

The general public considered it a tremendous offense and a provocation ¨to the independence movement, given that it was carried on the 23rd of September, which commemorates El Grito de Lares, (Lares Cry for Independence from Spain) an almost holy date for many islanders.

Last August, AI Puerto Rico was invited to attend the first summit for displaced communities. Displaced communities in the island are constantly confronting the violation of their economic, social and cultural rights by developers as well as the government in the name of development. Since this is one of AI priorities, accompaniment of these communities is a must for us.  More than 200 people from communities around the island participated. The event ended with a declaration in which the communities demanded from the government to discontinue the expropriation processes being held in many of them, instead they are asking that a revitalization process should be considered with the participation of the community residents which will allow them to remain in their places.

On October 10, for the first time in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, AI Puerto Rico is joining the celebration of the World Day against the Death Penalty 2005 with a Festival of Music. AI is a member of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty. The WCADP organizes the World Day Against the death Penalty annually to mobilize people around the world to take action against the death penalty. This year the day will be dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty in Africa. Among the activities planned is the collection of signatures asking African governments for the abolition of the death penalty in their countries, statements by performers denouncing the death penalty, a street theater performance, showing of documentaries and tables for distribution of educational materials.

The last week of October, and as a twist to the Halloween celebrations, we will have a House of Horrors depicting the horrors of human rights violations around the world.
In the pipes remain our plans for celebrating November 25 as the International Day to Stop Violence against Women and  December 10 Human Rights Day. After those dates, I’ll be packing to begin my six-month itineration in the US. I look forward to visiting with many of you next year. Until then, have a Blessed Holiday Season.

Yours in Christ,
Carmen Alicia Nebot (Ali)
San Juan, P. R.
Ali Nebot is a missionary with the Evangelical Council of Puerto Rico.  She serves as a program coordinator on human rights issues.