[Ppnews] Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron dies at 89
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Aug 1 16:23:59 EDT 2010
Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron dies at 89
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico Lolita Lebron, a Puerto
Rican independence activist who spent 25 years in
prison for participating in a gun attack on the
U.S. Congress a half-century ago, died Sunday. She was 89.
Lebron died at a hospital in San Juan of
complications from respiratory disease, said
Francisco Torres, president of the Nationalist
Party of Puerto Rico. She had been hospitalized
repeatedly in recent months for her ailments.
Lebron was a leading figure in the small but
passionate nationalist movement in this U.S. territory.
"Lolita was the mother of the independence
movement. This is an insurmountable loss," said
Maria de Lourdes Santiago, a member of the
Caribbean island's Senate from the Puerto Rican Independence Party.
Lebron was born Nov. 19, 1920, in Lares, in
southwestern Puerto Rico, and moved as a young
adult to New York, part of a mass migration from
the island to the United States during the 1940s.
There she developed her nationalist views and
became a follower of movement leader Pedro Albizu Campos.
In 1954, she and three other nationalists entered
the U.S. Capitol with automatic pistols and
opened fire from an upstairs spectators' gallery
onto the crowded floor of the House, firing
nearly 30 shots. They unfurled a Puerto Rican
flag and Lebron shouted "Viva Puerto Rico libre!"
No one died in the attack but five U.S.
representatives were wounded, including one
congressman who was shot in the chest.
Lebron later said that she never intended to kill
anyone and that all four nationalists expected to
be killed in the assault. She and the others
Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres
Figueroa Cordero received lengthy prison sentences.
President Jimmy Carter granted them clemency in 1979 and they were released.
"We didn't do anything that we should regret,"
Lebron said upon her release. "Everyone has the
right to defend their right to freedom that God gave them."
Back in Puerto Rico, Lebron continued to attend
political rallies on the island, where the
independence movement holds little sway with
voters. The vast majority of people in Puerto
Rico favor either becoming a U.S. state or
maintaining the semiautonomous status they have now.
Lebron was arrested in 2001 at age 81 when she
and five other people cut through a fence on the
neighboring island of Vieques to protest the 1999
death of a civilian security guard killed by an
errant bomb dropped during a U.S. Navy training
exercise. The U.S. has since closed the Vieques
bombing range. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail for trespassing.
In recent years, Lebron tempered her support for violent struggle.
"I think times have changed, and there is no need
now to kill for freedom," she told El Mundo
newspaper in 1998. "I would not take up arms
nowadays, but I acknowledge that the people have
a right to use any means available to free themselves."
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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