Venezuela’s Chavez supports widow of killed Puerto Rican nationalist

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday condemned the killing of Puerto Rican nationalist Filiberto Ojeda, encouraging his widow to carry on her husband's fight for the Caribbean island's independence. "Long live an independent Puerto Rico, long live a free Puerto Rico!" Chavez said as he welcomed Ojeda's widow, Elma Beatriz Rosado, on his weekly TV and radio program.

FBI agents shot the 72-year-old militant independence activist during a September raid to arrest him for the 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in West Hartford, Connecticut. Chavez, speaking to an audience of activists attending the World Social Forum ending later that day in Caracas, condemned the killing as a "cowardly massacre" by the FBI.

"They murdered him," Chavez said. "Viva Filiberto! ... Let's follow his example." Rosado, holding back tears as she stood at Chavez's side, said: "I accuse the United States government of murdering Filiberto." Rosado has previously accused the FBI of firing first on Ojeda, a charge the U.S. agency has denied.

On Sunday, she described how the FBI closed in on their house and fired shots until a sniper finally killed her husband. "They didn't allow medical assistance from other independence companions that were nearby ... it's all documented," she said.

The FBI has said that its agents did not enter the house until almost 24 hours after the shooting due to fears that Ojeda had rigged it with explosives, and had awaited the arrival of an investigative team from Virginia. An autopsy has shown that Ojeda, who was shot once in the shoulder, might have survived if he had received immediate medical care.

Ojeda carried out the 1983 robbery to help fund his independence activities. His death has been widely condemned in the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million, where some viewed him as an independence movement hero.

The FBI has said the U.S. Office of the Inspector General would investigate the shooting. "We are with you," Chavez told Rosado, adding to the audience, "this fight (for Puerto Rican independence) is not just her fight but all of ours." Rosado said Puerto Rico identifies with Latin America more than the U.S. "We Puerto Ricans are not Americans. We are Latin Americans," said Rosado, accusing "the gringos of suffocating us" and noting that Spanish was more widely spoken on the island than English, reports the AP. I.L.

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