Date: September 18, 2021
CBMH Statement on
Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Assault within our Organization committed by Carlito Rovira
Carlos “Carlito” Rovira, a well-known veteran Sixties activist in contemporary movement circles in NY and member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) until Spring 2019, has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior against the youngest and most vulnerable member of the Campaign—a Black woman. The abuse lasted five years: 2014-2019. Carlito Rovira was almost 40 years older than his target when the predation began–he was 61 years old and she was 24 years old.
In light of recent revelations close to home, we also acknowledge and stand in support of the testimonies of abuse given by members of a movement near and dear to our hearts, the MOVE Organization.
The survivor of abuse in the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (who has chosen to be unnamed in this statement) joined our collective in 2013—one of her first significant political commitments. As she was committing to the organization’s goals to bring a new generation of activists into the fight to free political prisoners, Carlito Rovira zeroed in on her youth and political inexperience and positioned himself as a wise elder mentor. They mingled in the sociability of movement spaces and Rovira invited her to the movies in 2014. After the survivor declined this advance, Rovira weaponized his knowledge of her sexual inexperience, religious faith, unemployment, and traditional family commitments to manipulate and harass her. Before long, Carlito Rovira bulldozed her boundaries with graphic misogynist and predatory talk of his desire to “turn her into a woman.”
Examples of Rovira’s texts to the survivor:
“Let’s go to a hotel by the shore overlooking the ocean. I will introduce you to sex.”
“I want to fuck you hard girl and see you scream with pleasure.”
“I want to be your first… I fantasize holding your ass tight with both hands as my hard dick is stroking inside of you”
“And when are you going to let me make you into a complete woman?”
While Rovira promised to turn a sexually and politically unpracticed new member “into a woman,” he was simultaneously tooting his own horn about his pro-women, anti-sexist political commitments, past and present.
In the ensuing years, Carlito Rovira groomed the survivor. He exploited his authority within the organization and emotionally manipulated the victim to solicit sex from her. In 2016 and 2018, Rovira sent genital photos to the survivor and attempted to pressure her to return photos in kind. In 2017, Carlito Rovira masturbated in front of the victim at the home of his then-fiancé, the late Ana Lopez Betancourt.
CBMH members learned that Carlito Rovira manipulated, harassed, and sexually abused one of their own in October 2020. The process of uncovering what happened has been arduous and involved rigorous investigation and consultation with psychologists and restorative justice specialists.
This public statement is motivated by our responsibility to alert our comrades and brothers and sisters in NY activist communities with whom Carlito Rovira organizes that Carlito Rovira is a predator and abuser. Despite Rovira’s artistic and political contributions in diverse movement circles from the Sixties to today, he has exhibited an equally long pattern of predatory behavior against women and engaged in organizational disruption of different kinds, which we will address later. Despite knowledge of Carlito Rovira’s long-standing predations, he remains a highly respected speaker, political analyst, and artist. This statement is a challenge to this most immoral and politically bankrupt contradiction. With it, we demand that movements dedicated to fighting against colonialism, imperialism, racism, and capitalism, finally take into account how sexual violence, harassment, and abuse are structurally produced, how these live in our movements as much as in other sectors of society and form part of the lynchpin that keeps oppressive systems in place. The failure of our movements to hold Rovira accountable all these years paved the way to the abuse of a young woman in the CBMH, not to mention the countless others who’ve swallowed their trauma.
This public statement is motivated by our responsibility to alert our comrades and brothers and sisters in NY activist communities with whom Carlito Rovira organizes that Carlito Rovira is a predator and abuser.Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
We understand the long and painful history of COINTELPRO state repression and believe that state repression enables abusers. It fosters an environment of avoidance and defensively closes ranks among comrades who reflexively doubt or look the other way in the face of charges of interpersonal abuse within movement organizations. Rather than addressing issues of abuse in movements straightforwardly, comrades dismiss accusations as divisive COINTELPRO tactics. Tragically, those who speak up on these matters are cast as suspicious and denounced as disruptive or unprincipled. If you consider our broader hopes for a free society, abuse is what is truly disruptive and unprincipled. Silence, in the face of such behavior, is ethically and politically bankrupt. Allowing predators to move from organization to campaign without sanction and escape accountability is common, but unconscionable. Expelling a predator from the movement removes a disruptive element from the movement so that we can get on with the work. This runs counter to the low-grade chaos and disruption predators foster in our ranks, which COINTELPRO prefers.
These charges do not stand alone. In late August/early September 2021 conversations amongst NY-based individuals and organizations turned to the question of male violence in the movement, specifically centered on Carlito Rovira’s history of abuse. The CBMH supports the efforts of Latinx women, 60s veterans, and others to formulate a process for accountability and restorative justice around Rovira’s history of abuse. However, we take our own path to breaking the silence.
The CBMH is issuing this statement to shed light on the abuse that lurks in our movements and gives cover to abusers who move from organization to organization. The CBMH is dedicated to fighting for a better world, realizing abolition, and in particular, demanding the freedom and release of Mumia Abu- Jamal and all Political Prisoners.
Over time, the grooming of the survivor by Carlito Rovira continued and the advances escalated. The unequal power dynamics within the organization and within the larger movement as a whole between Rovira and the survivor allowed him to overstep her boundaries time and time again. Within the Campaign, Carlito Rovira used his position of authority to both facilitate and cover a pattern of sexual harassment. These behaviors eventually escalated. Carlito Rovira fashioned himself in the CBMH as a mentor and political education point person. He organized security for events, played a leading role in mediating internal conflicts, and solicited donations at events. Rovira used these roles to hold his target hostage. He used internal organizational matters to manipulate his target. When there was an organizational conflict involving his target, Rovira seized communications with her capriciously and in a personalized way. Weeks later, he reeled her in with manipulative attention.
One example of his carrot and stick approach: “Sweetie, even when I was angry at you I still wanted to put my tongue on your clit.”
Carlito Rovira engineered situations where he and the survivor would be alone and he could have the upper hand. While serving in a mentor relationship with the survivor, he first sexually assaulted her when he closed the door behind them in the bathroom and put his hands on her genitals. This attack occurred during the CBMH annual holiday celebration in December 2016, where Rovira’s fiancée was present.
The second assault came in early 2017, when Carlito Rovira masturbated in front of the victim in the home he shared with his then-fiancée, the now-deceased Ana Lopez Betancourt. Rovira had lured the survivor to his apartment while his fiancée was in the home. The assault happened after the fiancée left to work.
Further investigation, however incomplete, revealed that Carlito Rovira didn’t act alone. After the above predation, the survivor confided in another former member. Regrettably, rather than supporting the survivor, this person enabled Rovira by urging the survivor to remain quiet and not alert the leadership. This enabler also told the survivor that no one would believe her. Carlito Rovira might have been relying on this female member of the Campaign at the time to help keep the survivor confused and to persuade her to keep the abuse from surfacing. The person manipulated the victim into silence, stating that the accusation would cause retaliation from CBMH leadership and personal strife for Ana, Rovira’s fiancée. This member left the organization alongside Carlito Rovira.
Rovira left the organization in 2019. By then, he had become a source of disruption and a stoker of internal conflict. He left the organization after having proposed and pressured the organization to implement major changes, which he had volunteered to coordinate. Emblematic of this was an abortive “attempt” at establishing a campaign office, an effort that Rovira vigorously lobbied for, against the judgment of leadership and others who argued that we didn’t have enough human and financial resources to staff an office. Rovira volunteered to lead the office work but left the organization in the middle of the move into the office. In the end, the project diverted attention, energy, and resources from the work of bringing Mumia home. On top of this, Carlito Rovira sowed further confusion by maligning a Campaign member with vicious rumors, both privately and publicly. When it came to an accounting of his behavior, he flat out refused to enter a process of conflict resolution internally, despite having put himself at the helm of these processes when they involved others.
When the sexual abuse allegations surfaced in 2020, further investigation revealed that Carlito Rovira had patterns of violence against women spanning decades. His actions have been given cover because too many radical social movements have sidestepped violence against women. It is an open secret that Carlito Rovira attacked a former romantic partner, in Worker’s World. We also learned he pointed a gun at a woman’s head. These survivors have so far been unwilling to go public with their stories.
These facts are known in the numerous organizations he has disrupted, but they’ve remained concealed by victims and supporters alike who fear retaliation. Carlito Rovira has in the past threatened to harm anyone who has sought to challenge and expose him. We stand with survivors and believe that unequivocal and widespread public exposure of Carlito Rovira’s pattern of abuse against women can protect them and others.
Some believe that exposing internal abuse is a distraction from the left’s struggle against the predations of the state. That’s because COINTELPRO used everything from violence to rumors in an attempt to destroy the Black liberation movement. We make these accusations transparently with ample proof and in alignment with Revolutionary ancestor Safiya Bukhari’s premise (quoting Mao) of “No investigation, no right to speak.” Having closely examined these unprincipled behaviors, violations of communal trust, and acts of sexual violence against our comrade, we now invoke our right to speak—not only to further advance necessary healing and accountability processes personally and organizationally but also in solidarity with the countless individuals and collectives that have been victimized in a similar manner. We see this as part of the commitment to promoting a culture of resistance that stands at the core of our organizing efforts.