[Marxism] Lolita Lebron obit

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 3 06:42:55 MDT 2010

NY Times August 3, 2010
Lolita Lebrón, Puerto Rican Nationalist, Dies at 90

Lolita Lebrón, who blazed her way to notoriety with a Luger pistol and 
patriotic shouts as she led three other Puerto Rican nationalists in an 
attack on the United States House of Representatives on March 1, 1954, 
died Sunday in San Juan, P.R. She was 90.

The cause was heart and lung failure, said Linda Alonso Lebrón, her niece.

In the attack in the Capitol, Ms. Lebrón and the other assailants fired 
from a spectator’s gallery just above the House floor, raining as many 
as 30 bullets into a chaotic chamber and wounding five congressmen.

Ms. Lebrón was imprisoned for 25 years and widely condemned as a 
terrorist, although proponents of Puerto Rican independence hailed her 
and her associates as revolutionary heroes. She ascended into a leftist 
pantheon with figures like Che Guevara, becoming the subject of books 
and artwork.

Ms. Lebrón always said she remained proud of the shooting, which came 
two years after Puerto Rico, formerly a territory of the United States, 
had become a commonwealth. She dismissed that status as only more 
colonization and demanded complete independence. On the day of the 
shooting, she said she had fully expected to give up her life.

Her political convictions never disappeared. In her 80s, she was 
arrested twice for protesting an American military base on Puerto Rico’s 
island of Vieques. She served 60 days in jail.

But in her latter decades she came to believe that civil disobedience, 
like that at Vieques, was not only more moral than violence but more 

“There is no need now to kill for freedom,” she said in 1998.

After her release from prison, Puerto Ricans of all political stripes 
would hail her on the street — she typically dressed in black — as a 
sort of national elder. They called her only Doña Lolita. No last name 
was necessary.

On the blustery, rainy day of the shooting 56 years ago, Ms. Lebrón was 
a stylishly dressed 34-year-old woman with the looks of the beauty queen 
she had been as a youth. She wore bright lipstick.

Firecrackers suddenly seemed to be exploding in the House chamber at 
2:32 p.m., interrupting a debate about Mexican farm workers among the 
243 representatives present. Congressmen dived and fell, though none 
were killed.

Piercing the confusion was the voice of Ms. Lebrón: “Viva Puerto Rico!” 
She emptied the chambers of a big Luger pistol, holding it in two hands 
and waving it wildly. She then threw down the pistol and whipped out a 
Puerto Rican flag, which she waved but never managed to unfurl fully. As 
she shouted, her companions trained their weapons on the House floor.

After she was arrested, the police found a note in her purse. “My life I 
give for the freedom of my country,” it read.

Ms. Lebrón was convicted of five counts of assault with a dangerous 
weapon and sentenced to serve from 16 years and 8 months to 50 years in 
prison. Her colleagues, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero 
and Irving Flores Rodriguez, were convicted on more serious counts and 
each sentenced to 25 to 75 years in prison.

Although Ms. Lebrón fired eight shots, she was cleared of assault with 
intent to kill because she had fired at the ceiling.

All four shooters were later sentenced to an additional six years in 
another trial for seditious conspiracy.

Dolores Lebrón de Perez was born on Nov. 19, 1919, in Lares, P.R., a 
small town where her father was a coffee plantation foreman. She 
finished eighth grade, and she was elected “Queen of the Flowers of May” 
in a beauty pageant.

She had a daughter and a son, both of whom died years ago. Ms. Lebrón is 
survived by her husband, Dr. Sergio Irizarry; her sister, Aurea Lebrón; 
and two grandchildren.

In the 1940s, she moved to New York seeking a better life and found work 
as a seamstress. She became a follower of Pedro Albizu Campos, a 
nationalist leader. Deciding a drastic event was needed to highlight his 
cause, he assigned Ms. Lebrón to lead it, making her responsible for 
every detail.

“I had all the secrets, all the plans,” she said in an interview with 
The Washington Post Magazine in 2004. “Me and me alone.”

The planning was not perfect. The conspirators got lost on the way to 
the Capitol from Union Station and had to ask a pedestrian for directions.

At the trial, Ms. Lebrón sharply repudiated an argument by her own 
lawyer that the conspirators were mentally unsound, shouting “No! No! No!”

When the prosecution let a Puerto Rican flag drag on the floor, she 
whispered to her lawyer and he successfully objected.

In prison, she built an altar in her cell and said she had repeated 
ecstatic religious visions. She refused to apply for parole because that 
meant apologizing.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, saying he was acting out of “humane 
considerations,” released Ms. Lebrón and two other assailants, a move 
that was expected to clear the way for the release of four Americans 
being held in Cuban prisons. He had released the fourth assailant in 
1978 because he had cancer.

Many Puerto Ricans opposed the clemency. Puerto Rico’s nonvoting 
representative in Congress at the time, Baltasar Corrado, said the 
assailants had been “kept in jail for their criminal conduct, not their 
political beliefs.”

Ms. Lebrón herself remained defiant after her release, saying it “was 
done for political expediency and not because of a concern for human 

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