Pardon us

The Clintons & the FALN

How could two brilliant politicians like Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton create the fiasco surrounding the clemency decision for twelve Puerto Rican nationalists who were serving sentences up to ninety years for "terrorist" crimes in the 1970s and ’80s in which no one was injured, no shots were fired, and no bombs went off?

The Puerto Rican FALN members were convicted of having unlicensed firearms, transporting stolen vehicles across state lines, and conspiring to commit sedition; certainly not acts deserving suspended sentences but not, in effect, life sentences either. Their continued imprisonment generated a lot of sympathy in Puerto Rico, but this was not an issue that would send its citizens to the barricades.

President Clinton said the sole reason for his clemency offer (if they forswore violence) was the harshness of the sentences. That makes sense. The Puerto Rican nationalists convicted of storming the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1950s and wounding many legislators had received similar sentences for far more terrible crimes.

With Hillary Clinton about to make history by becoming the first First Lady to run for office, pundits claimed the clemency offer was to keep Puerto Rican voters in her camp. That’s far fetched. The release of the FALN twelve is not the single issue on Puerto Ricans’ agenda that would make them turn to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Mrs....

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About the Author

Joseph Policano has written about politics for Commonweal for several years.