Viva Puerto Rico Libre!!!
March 1, 1954 - Why Puerto Ricans Attacked the U.S. House Of Representatives Written by Carlos Rovira of The Vieques Support Campaign
March 1st of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. House of Representatives. A woman and three men traveled to Washington, DC to participate in an event that would stun the principal oppressors of the world. The act of defiance and valor by Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Irving Flores drew world attention to the brutal nature of U.S. domination in Puerto Rico, which began with the 1898 military invasion. Mainstream historians and government officials continue to describe the four Nationalists as "maniacs" and "terrorists" for their act of fifty years ago, thus demonizing the general struggle for Puerto Rican liberation. But little is ever said in history books about the admiration and respect the four patriots received from people throughout the world, also yearning for their own liberation. PERSECUTION OF THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT Struggles for national liberation were intensifying by the end of World War II; at this time, the U.S. began labeling its attempts at worldwide domination and subjugation, "an anti-Communist crusade." Under the guise of "saving the world from Communism," the U.S. intervened in China, Albania, Greece, Uruguay, Palestine, and the Philippines. It also waged war in Korea and orchestrated the overthrow of progressive, democratically-elected governments in Iran and Guatemala. During the 1940's and 1950's, following a pattern in U.S. history, military intervention abroad was accompanied by repression at home. Under the pretext of safeguarding the U.S. against Communism and terror, laws were enacted that violated fundamental human rights. Senator Joseph McCarthy and other extremists focused on destroying progressive movements for social change within the United States. Many U.S. citizens were convicted under the Smith Act (1940), which prohibited any speech or publication that was seen as teaching the desirability of or advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government. At the same time, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as well as the Senate Internal Security Committee and the Government Operations Subcommittee dominated by Senator Joseph McCarthy, hunted for "Communists." Because of the outright colonial presence of the U.S. in Puerto Rico, Washington openly sought to crush the independence movement with tactics that were even more repressive. New laws made it "legal" for the colonial police to gun down without warning anyone advocating Puerto Rico's independence. Persecution by the colonial government usually meant being "blacklisted". Deprived to unemployment, many of the blacklisted activists and their families were forced to leave their homeland and were amongst the ten of thousands annually compelled to migrate to the urban centers of the U.S. in search of livelihood. To further humiliate the people's national sentiment, the U.S pressured the United Nations in 1952 to declare that the case of Puerto Rico was an internal matter of the United States, and therefore, according to the arguments of Washington officials, no government in the world can ever accuse the U.S. of the crime of colonialism. Washington used this argument back then as it does today to blatantly cover-up historical evidence and the existence of a movement striving to remove the U.S. presence by any means. Although the Nationalist Party and its principal leader, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, endured severe repression, they maintained their ideals of national dignity. Being aware of U.S. government secret plans to destroy the independence movement by murdering and imprisoning the most outspoken participants, the Nationalist leadership called for armed actions to draw world attention to the plight of the Puerto Rican masses. On October 31, 1950, the Nationalist movement staged an uprising in the city of Jayuya and waged armed battles with colonial authorities throughout the country. Another act of the Nationalist political offensive was on November 1, 1950, a failed attempt to assassinate President Harry Truman when Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola approached the Blair House in Washington, DC and confronted the Secret Service and police in a gun battle. Torresola was killed and Collazo was severly wounded in the exchange of bullets. Puerto Rican patriots viewed the measures they took as acts of self-defense, especially given that the U.S. government had virtually legalized the murder of Nationalist Party members. The right of self-defense and the right of self-determination for the Puerto Rican people were synonymous with Nationalist Party doctrine. PUERTO RICANS THAT WENT TO CONGRESS By the morning of March 1, 1954, Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Irving Flores had their minds set on presenting a criticism of action to members of the U.S. Congress. The four Nationalists drew little attention to themselves as they calmly walked up to the gallery, an area then reserved for public observation of congressional proceedings in the Capitol Building. After they had positioned themselves in the gallery overlooking the chamber where Congress conducts its business, the Nationalists displayed a Puerto Rican flag and immediately began aiming their weapons. Lolita Lebron then shouted the solemn words of the historical struggle for independence "QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!" What followed within seconds were sounds of gunfire and panic throughout the hall. As bullets flew everywhere, the racist men of privilege and power, the colonizers of Puerto Rico and oppressors of the world, found themselves running towards the exit doors in fear for their lives. In the end, about thirty rounds of ammunition had been fired and five U.S. Congressmen laid wounded, as other officials throughout the city were in complete disbelief. The social arrogance of Washington's elite had prevented them from ever imagining that the victimized Puerto Rican people would dare carry out such a bold act within the walls of the kingdom's castle. The four Nationalists were immediately apprehended, charged and sentenced to life imprisonment. As the Puerto Rican people mounted their struggle for the right of self-determination, in Puerto Rico and in the U.S. during the upsurge of the 1960's and 1970's, the immediate release of Puerto Rican political prisoners became a central demand. International pressure ensued, thanks to the diplomatic work of the Cuban government and the solidarity expressed by the revolution of that country towards the Puerto Rican struggle. In the year 1979 Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, Irving Flores, as well as Oscar Collazo, were granted amnesty and released from prison by President Jimmy Carter. What occurred in the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 1st opened a door for the world to see how barbaric U.S. imperialism is, still resorting to the oldest form of foreign subjugation. As a result of the heroic act by the freedom fighters, the Puerto Rican independence struggle gained international recognition. PUERTO RICO WILL BE FREE! The real criminals were not the four freedom fighters nor any Puerto Rican Nationalists who took up arms to defy the rule of colonialism; the real criminals are the invaders who came to Puerto Rico to exploit, plunder and rape. Human suffering and despair are the consequences when the U.S. lays claim to its interests in any part of the world. Whether it is Puerto Rico, Palestine or Iraq, the conquest and pillage of one's homeland by a foreign invader has historically justified the right of a people to use force as a means for liberation. The relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico has been preserved for the last 106 years with none other than the violence of U.S. colonial policy. Puerto Rican history under U.S. domination is marked by massacres, forced sterilizations, bombing campaigns, deadly experiments and other catastrophes. Strictly enforced federal laws state that all matters concerning the social and economic life of Puerto Rico is ultimately decided by the U.S. Congress, not by the pretentiously arranged puppet government in San Juan. The plight of the Puerto Rican people is undoubtedly rooted in the denial of their right to independence and self-determination. Puerto Rico is one of the most densely industrialized regions of the world. Because of the absence of self-determination, giant U.S. corporations are free to extract $26 billion annually from Puerto Rico. In a country of 4 million people, the per capita is one of the highest in the world. Yet, the poverty rate in Puerto Rico is greater than in the poorest U.S. state of Mississippi. The colonizers of Puerto Rico also oppress people of other countries and pose the threat of reducing them to outright colonies as well. Puerto Ricans share a common foe with the world's people and are not alone. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestine are reminiscent of all the brutality the U.S. has inflicted in order to secure the colonization of Puerto Rico. The firmness and committment demonstrated by Lolita, Rafael, Andres and Irvin, to fulfill the quest of making their homeland an independent republic, shall be remembered and kept in the fighting traditions of the Puerto Rican masses for many generations to come. And since Boricuas have accustomed themselves to resist colonial oppression after more than 500 years of development as a nation, Puerto Rico is surely destined to be free of the invader and will contribute to the general struggle for the emancipation of humanity. ************************************************************ Come and join us in commemorating the 50th anniversary of a monumental event in Puerto Rican history, the March 1, 1954 Nationalist attack on the House of Representatives. A salute to Puerto Rico's independence struggle and the patriotic heroes: Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Irvin Flores. Date: Sunday, February 29 Time: 1:00 P.M. Location: El Maestro Cultural & Educational Center 700 Elton Avenue, 2nd Floor (off of 154th Street) In the Borough of the Bronx, New York City. Transportation information: Take the IRT #2 or #5 subway trains to 149th Street & 3rd Avenue. Sponsored by the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, New York Committee