[Marxism] Lolita Lebron obit
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
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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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