“Justice is incidental to law and order. ”
– FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
Starting in the mid-1930s, and continuing for over half a century, the FBI developed a secret information program in Puerto Rico – it was called carpetas. These were secret police files, containing intimate personal information. The files were built by a network of police officers, confidential informants, FBI agents – and the amount of information they contained was staggering.
Over 100,000 Puerto Ricans had carpetas opened on them. Of these, 74,412 were under “political” police surveillance. An additional 60,776 carpetas were opened on vehicles, boats, and organizations. Carpetas were even opened on geographic areas: entire neighborhoods had carpetas filed on them by the FBI. Eventually, the carpetas became a part of the larger COINTELPRO program developed jointly by the FBI and CIA, to monitor and suppress political dissent against the U.S.
Over time, the carpetas eventually totaled 1.8 million pages. The average carpeta contained roughly 20 pages but others were more extensive. The file on Albizu Campos filled two boxes with 4,700 pages.
The information in carpetas included school transcripts; employment history; religious practice; political affiliations; club memberships; bank accounts; property holdings; taxes paid; family and marital records; travel history; auto registration and license plates; meetings attended; publications written or received. They also included personal information: friends, business partners, sexual partners, mistresses, gigolos, debtors and creditors, personal letters (intercepted at the post office), recorded phone calls, photos, wedding lists, laundry tickets and “miscellaneous items.”
The carpetas were used to imprison people, ruin their careers, fire them from their jobs, terminate their education, and permanently discredit them – even if they weren’t members of the Nationalist Party.
One stunning carpeta is the file on Luis Muñoz Marín, the first “democratically elected” governor of Puerto Rico. His file included this:
According to this document, Governor Luis Muñoz Marín was a narcotics addict, and the U.S. government knew it as of April 1943. Since this information was never released by the FBI, it appears that the U.S. government withheld this information from the general public, so that it could have some “very dirty laundry” on Luis Muñoz Marín.
In this manner, the U.S. acquired enormous control over Luis Muñoz Marín when he became the “democratically elected” governor of Puerto Rico in 1948. They could expose him as a narcotics addict at any time…so they had the “democratically elected governor” on a very short leash, indeed.
This is a prime example of how the carpetas program was used to control the politics and society of Puerto Rico: through fear, intimidation and outright blackmail. The program was so pervasive, that the following cartoon ran in a Puerto Rican newspaper:
In the cartoon, a barber tells his client, “I know precisely how to cut your hair…I see it right here in your carpeta.”
A government fund was established in 1999 to assist some of the victims of carpetas. Later in 2000, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh admitted in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that: “(T)he FBI did operate a program that did tremendous destruction to many people, to the country and certainly to the FBI.” Freeh then vowed to “redress some of the egregious illegal action, maybe criminal action that occurred in the past.” Unfortunately by that time, the damage was already done – and the degree of harm caused by these carpetas, had become incalculable. This damage extended beyond any individual or group, and even beyond the issue of independence.
As befits a sun-kissed island with wonderfully fertile soil, Puerto Ricans were an open, gregarious, cheerful people – but sixty years of carpetas, police informants, and neighbors spying upon each other, had affected the national character of Puerto Rico. It had burned fear, secrecy, lying, betrayal and mistrust into its collective experience.
The carpetas drove a permanent wound into the psyche of Puerto Rico. It is a wound that may never fully heal.
For a more complete understanding of how 100,000 Puerto Ricans were followed by FBI agents, please read…