From Freedom Fighters to Patriots: The Successful Campaign to Release The FALN Political Prisoners, 1980–1999


This article explores why President Clinton sanctioned the release of the Puerto Rican
political prisoners in 1999 given that nineteen years earlier, the U.S. government, media,
public opinion, and even some of the pro-independence Left had excoriated them as
terrorists. To explain Clinton’s decision and the shift in much of public opinion, this
article traces the political contours and development of the campaign to release the
prisoners. It divides the campaign into two phases. From 1980 to 1990, the campaign
argued that a state of war existed between Puerto Rico and the United States, defined
the prisoners as prisoners of war, and linked support for the prisoners to the FALN and
armed struggle. From 1990 to 1999, it framed the prisoners’ release as a fundamental
human rights issue and called on Puerto Ricans to embrace the prisoners as part of the
Puerto Rican family and nation. This change allowed the campaign to become broader,
more inclusive, and successful. [Key words: FALN, campaign, political prisoners, solidarity movements, pro-independence politics] Read the article below…

Campaign to release FALN prisoners by Margaret Power
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