Puerto Rican Subversives List Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

“Puerto Rican Subversives List” refers to the work CCR did with the Instituto Puertorriqueño de Derechos Civilies, an organization founded by José Antonio “Abi” Lugo, a former CCR attorney, and other groups, to help secure the release of the dossiers of 135,000 people who had been spied on by the Commonwealth's Police Intelligence Division and Justice Department.

Although the court had declared in a 1987 opinion that keeping surveillance filed was illegal, the Commonwealth government and the so-called “subversives” fought for the next four years over conditions of the release of the files. Records were kept primarily on the activities of independentistas but were also maintained on environmentalists, feminists, pacifists, union leaders, and clergy.

The court rejected the government contention that the files could not be released because they would endanger the lives of government spies. In fact, the court said that publishing the names of agents and informers would avoid a repeat of “this nefarious practice.” However, the court did exempt from its ruling such groups as the Macheteros, the Armed Commandos of Liberation, and the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

In June 1992, five years after the ruling, the Puerto Rican Supreme Court ordered the release of dossiers compiled by the Police Intelligence Division and the Justice Department, without excising the names of undercover agents and informers who had helped gather information on 135,000 people. The files then became the custody of San Juan Superior Court Judge Arnaldo Lopez, whose office sent notices to all persons who had files.

Also surveilled were Puerto Ricans and North Americans residing in the U.S. who were believed to support Puerto Rican independence. While the court had acknowledged the violation of rights of Puerto Rican residents who were listed, it virtually ignored the rights of those outside of Puerto Rico.

CCR played a lead role in seeking legal remedies for those victims of the surveillance who lived in the United States and not in Puerto Rico. Also, CCR, through the Movement Support Network, worked to inform such people that the files were being released, about violations of their civil and constitutional rights stemming from this illegal government surveillance, and procedures to follow to obtain files.