By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira
On July 25, 1978, Puerto Rican police assassinated two young pro-independence activists. This brutal and blatant murder, known as the Cerro Maravilla murders, exposed for the world to see the violence with which U.S. imperialism keeps Puerto Rico in chains to this day.
The controversy and the cover-up that followed were like none other in Puerto Rico’s political history. It involved government officials at the highest level, top police brass as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado, 24, and Carlos Soto Arriví, 18, had been involved in pro-independence groups before. Inspired by the heroes of independence who championed the liberation of the homeland from U.S. rule by any means necessary, they joined the Armed Revolutionary Movement (MRA). The MRA had no experience in such matters, it never carried out any military actions in the past.
A police agent, Alejandro González Malavé, infiltrated the group. He recruited Darío and Soto to set fire to a communications tower on the mountain named Cerro Maravilla. The act was supposed to protest the imprisonment of Oscar Collazo (imprisoned for the 1950-armed attack on U.S. President Harry Truman) and Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero (imprisoned for a 1954-armed attack on the U.S. Congress).
By 1978, the freedom of these political prisoners was a campaign of paramount importance, both to the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico and to human rights advocates around the world. In fact, it was a frequently mentioned issue in news outlets throughout the world and at United Nations Organization discussions.
It was a clever manipulative tactic by the Puerto Rico Police. First and foremost, July 25th is the date of the U.S. military invasion in 1898. And because Arnaldo and Carlos were highly devoted to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence but were too inexperienced to detect how they were being lured into a trap; it was easy for the police to lead them to their deaths.
COLONIAL POLICE MURDER ARNALDO & CARLOS
On the evening of July 25, 1978, the three forced taxi driver Julio Ortiz Molina to drive them to the communications tower at the top of the mountain in Cerro Maravilla.
Once the vehicle arrived at the location, heavily armed police opened fire on the cab. Darío and Soto shouted, “Don’t shoot, we surrender,” according to well-documented testimony. The two were dragged out of the car, savagely beaten then forced to kneel. They were then shot, execution style.
Cops who testified during the investigation disclosed that several hours before the murders, officers assigned to the sting were ordered by Col. Angel Perez Casillas, commander of the Intelligence Division, that, “These terrorists should not come down (from the mountain) alive.”
Eyewitness accounts confirmed what many in the independence movement had all along asserted. The assassination of the two independence activists was a political statement on the part of the Puerto Rico Police.
Then Governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero Barcelo, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, immediately hailed the cops as heroes.
Pretentious investigations were conducted by the colonial government, as well as by the FBI and the Justice Department, but only to assist in a systematic cover-up motivated by the already existing colonial setting in Puerto Rico.
In the aftermath of the killings, every agency involved in the investigation was quick to exonerate the killer cops and demonize the two victims, and for clear-cut and well-defined reasons. The Puerto Rico Police exists as the principal enforcer of U.S. colonial policy.
Historically, every repressive act involved the complicity of the Puerto Rico Police. It has served as the pit bull of U.S. agencies, most especially the FBI, dating back to the attacks on Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist Party and the brutal Rio Piedras and the Ponce Massacres.
This specially trained armed attachment of U.S. colonialism is perhaps one of the most sophisticated apparatuses of law enforcement in all 50 states and occupied territories. It is defined by colonial law as a “quasi-military” organization which is granted assistance by the National Guard, in everything involved to the work of a “civilian” police force.
TYRANTS ARE NOT INVINCIBLE. POLITICAL ADVANTAGE CAN SHIFT
Regardless of differences in political beliefs, widespread indignation to these murders came from all sectors of the population. A momentum grew to such a degree of pressure that it caused a political crisis for the U.S. colonizers in Puerto Rico.
On April 29, 1986, the undercover cop Alejandro González Malavé was assassinated in front of his mother’s house in Bayamón. He was shot three times by a group identifying itself as the “Volunteer Organization for the Revolution.” Boricuas in Puerto Rico and the diaspora applauded his death and viewed it as a well-deserved act of justice.
The FBI considered this group “one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the United States.” On December 3, 1979, the V.O.R. claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S. Navy bus in Puerto Rico in which two Navy personnel were killed and 10 injured, and the destruction of 6 jet fighters at the Muniz Air National Guard base near San Juan on January 12, 1981.
In the end, eight police officers were convicted and given prison sentences, ranging from 6 to 30 years. But these prison sentences were merely a concession made by the colonial court to ease the mounting outcry for justice. The greatest concern Washington officials have always had about it’s stranglehold on Puerto Rico is the everlasting potential for mass rebellion.
Protest demonstrations occurred everywhere in Puerto Rico and the diaspora, demanding justice for Arnaldo and Carlos. News of the details surrounding this case reached global attention and pointed to the inhumanity of the U.S. presence and domination in Puerto Rico.
The Cerro Maravilla murders were not the first lives to be taken away from brave men and women who fought for independence and loved their homeland. Nor will the threat be gone of future incidents like Cerro Maravilla in 1978, so long as U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico continues to exist. It is the armed agencies of U.S. colonialism who have repeatedly proven to be the real terrorists.
No matter where, when or how the decisive battles for Puerto Rican national liberation may ensue, it shall certainly be a contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism. The murders of Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví will most definitely serve as reason to condemn and bring about the demise of this vile system.