WASHINGTON – Dolores “Lolita” Lebron Sotomayor, one of the five Puerto Rican nationalists who mounted an armed attack on the U.S. Congress in 1954, died of complications from respiratory disease, San Juan daily El Nuevo Dia said on its Web site. She was 90.
Lebron left sealed instructions for her funeral and the details will be announced once the family’s attorneys have reviewed the documents, niece Linda Alonso Lebron said.
“It’s a great loss for the family and Puerto Rico. She was a person who fought until her death for what she believed,” Alonso Lebron told the media.
Lolita Lebron died “with the hope that Puerto Rico will be free one day,” Primera Hora newspaper said.
The United States occupied Puerto Rico after the 1898 Spanish-American War.
On July 25, 1952, Congress allowed Puerto Rico to establish a “permanent association with a federal union,” or commonwealth. The island became a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.
Lebron was the leader of the March 1, 1954, shooting attack on the U.S. House of Representatives, which came a year after Washington successfully kept Puerto Rico off the U.N. list of colonial territories.
While no one was killed, five lawmakers were wounded.
Lolita Lebron and comrades Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, Andres Figueroa and Oscar Collazo all received lengthy prison sentences, but walked out of jail in 1979 after being granted clemency by then-President Jimmy Carter.
In a 1997 appearance before a U.S. congressional committee, Lebron said the attack was a “cry of freedom” from a people “threatened with extinction.”
Born Nov, 19, 1919, in the southwestern town of Lares, Lebron moved to New York in the early 1940s to find work. She then became involved with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
She was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 2001 after trespassing on the U.S. Navy base on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques amid protests against live-fire training exercises that killed a security guard.
The Navy later abandoned Vieques.
Few Puerto Ricans support demands for independence and the island’s politics are dominated by two parties whose main difference is over the nature of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, with one favoring statehood and the other advocating enhanced commonwealth status. EFE