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Partido Nacionalista (Nationalist Party)

With President Truman’s signature, the Estado Libre Asociado [ELA] took effect July 25, 1952, the anniversary of the American invasion of Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War. The most vocal and violent detractors of Public Law 600 and the ELA was the Partido Nacionalista (Nationalist Party). As early as the fall of 1950, radical Nacionalistas launched two attacks in Puerto Rico: On October 27, they led an armed uprising in at least seven Puerto Rican towns; three days later, they attempted to assassinate Muñoz Marín at the governor’s mansion in San Juan. A total of 33 Nacionalistas died.

Nacionalistas also struck in Washington during the debate on Public Law 600. On November 1, 1950, New York-based Puerto Rican Nacionalistas attacked Blair House, President Truman’s temporary home on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Though the President was unharmed, one of the two assassins and a White House police officer were killed.

Resident Commissioner Fernós-Isern condemned the attack as the work of a small, extremist minority and was quick to distance Puerto Rico from the violence. “I am a physician. Perhaps I might find in the intricacies of psychiatry an explanation for this type of behavior and for the reasoning or lack of reasoning behind it,” he told his colleagues on the House Floor. “But outside of that, I can say this: Thank God this type of behavior and reasoning is not typical of the people of Puerto Rico.” He linked the violent wing of the Partido Nacionalista with “traitorous” United States communists in an “unholy marriage.”

In a visit to the White House on November 17, Fernós-Isern delivered a letter to President Truman expressing the regrets of the Puerto Rican people. After the remaining assassin was sentenced to execution, Fernós-Isern delivered a letter that was signed by 119,000 Puerto Ricans who were thankful the President had been spared. Weighing 57 pounds, the letter denounced the “arbitrary act of violence … by a small group of fanatic Nationalists.”

On March 1, 1954, Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the U.S. Capitol, raining gunfire onto the House Floor from the public galleries. Three armed men and one woman posing as journalists sprayed the House Chamber with gunfire from the southwest corner of the public galleries. The group formed by Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa Cordero who through this action intended to "denounce to the world the farce of the Commonwealth", under which Puerto Rico is still maintained since 1952. With a monster flag and a cry of "Viva Puerto Rico libre!", Lolita arrived in the US Federal Chamber and with her comrades shot to the roof. After being arrested said that she had not gone to kill anyone, "but to die for Puerto Rico."

At least 243 Members of Congress and many staff members, in the middle of a vote on Mexican farm labor legislation, dove for cover under chairs or tables and behind the rostrum. Five Members were wounded, two seriously. Suspects Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, and Andrés Figueroa Cordero were led away shortly after being detained by Capitol Police and bystanders.

Fernós-Isern, who was a trained doctor and was in his office during the shooting because he couldn’t vote, ran toward the Capitol after hearing about the attack to see if he could help the medical personnel. Capitol Police stopped him for security reasons, confining him to his office on the seventh floor of the New (Longworth) House Office Building. Fernós-Isern denounced the shooters the same way he had denounced Truman’s would-be assassins and accused Puerto Ricans in New York of being “communist dupes.” The shooters “are certainly out of touch with the political situation in Puerto Rico,” he said. “Can it be the doing just of Puerto Rican Nationalists?” he asked a Baltimore Sun journalist rhetorically. “Who benefits? Certainly not Puerto Rico.”

Governor Muñoz Marín also flew to Washington on March 2 to express his condolences. The governor visited all the wounded Congressmen, except Michigan Representative Alvin Bentley, who was unable to receive visitors, and called on President Eisenhower at the White House. Later Muñoz Marín stood in the well of the House, shook hands with Members, and received a standing ovation. Speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts, who had ducked behind the rostrum to avoid the rampage, voiced his support for the Puerto Rican government. “A few gangsters can’t break up the friendship of great nations,” he said.

Puerto Rico recalled the leader separatists Lolita Lebron, who was jailed for 25 years in the United States (US) for commanding an assault on Congress in Washington demanding self - determination of their nation. She died on August 1, 2010. In favor of the pro-independence ideals of the island, Lebrón died at age 89 in a hospital in San Juan for having cardiorespiratory complications, after being released in 1979 from US prisons.

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Page last modified: 12-01-2017 18:45:06 ZULU