[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."



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