Operación COINTELPRO: Las Redes Sociales Originales  

For English version:https://carlitoboricua.blog/2020/05/29/the-new-improved-cointelpro-found-in-social-media/

or Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Cuando el denunciante Edward Snowden decidió desertar de su lealtad profesional a la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA), los gobernantes de este país entraron en modo de crisis. Ahora sabemos cómo se utilizan los avances en la tecnología informática, especialmente Internet y sus múltiples medios sociales, para recopilar inteligencia y servir como herramienta para sofocar la creación de un nuevo movimiento popular.  

Edward Snowden

Para aquellos que están familiarizados con las consecuencias de la Operación: CONTELPRO, durante las décadas de 1950, 1960 y 1970, nunca deben ser ingenuos y creer que estos proyectos gubernamentales dirigidos contra activistas progresistas alguna vez terminaron. Al contrario, continúa hasta el día de hoy con mayor sofisticación.  

Hemos aprendido mucho sobre las operaciones encubiertas durante ese período y cómo se utilizó para disminuir las fortalezas de los movimientos de liberación negra, de independencia puertorriqueña, chicanos e indígenas. La operación COINTELPRO también fue utilizada contra el movimiento de oposición a la guerra de Vietnam. Lo que tendemos a pasar por alto es que el gobierno también ha aprendido lecciones de esas experiencias, para usarlas contra el surgimiento de un nuevo movimiento.  

La Operación COINTELPRO empleó las tácticas más impactantes imaginables. Usaron métodos sutiles y emocionalmente convincentes para llevar a cabo su engaño. Las técnicas astutas fueron acompañadas por una fuerza represiva abierta destinada a tener un impacto psicológico devastador en todo el movimiento opuesto al statu quo.  

COINTELPRO fue creado en la década de 1950 para espiar a los socialistas y al primer movimiento por los derechos civiles, en un momento en que el notorio senador Joseph McCarthy lanzó su campaña política anticomunista, racista y anti-obrera. Utilizó información obtenida interceptando llamadas telefónicas, interceptando correo postal y de  informantes. Hoy en día, gran parte de eso se ha vuelto obsoleto gracias a la invención de nada menos que el Internet, específicamente las redes sociales.  

Los métodos mejorados de vigilancia y manipulación por parte del estado policial involucran unidades especializadas que monitorean la actividad de las redes sociales y cuyo propósito es también provocar peleas para fomentar la disrupción dentro de los círculos progresistas.  

El notorio J. Edgar Hoover

El notorio J. Edgar Hoover habría estado bastante contento si Facebook, Twitter o Instagram existieran durante su tiempo como director del FBI. Es seguro que el uso de esa tecnología por parte de Hoover habría sido para acelerar la persecución del Partido Pantera Negra, apuntando a los miembros más abiertos, como aquellos que fueron asesinados o encarcelados de por vida.  

El Departamento de Policía de Nueva York (NYPD), el Departamento de Policía de Chicago (CPD) en coordinación con el FBI, utilizaron las mismas tácticas de divide y vencerás contra el aliado fraternal del Partido Pantera Negra, los Young Lords.  

El Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. y Malcolm X fueron objetivos de COINTELPRO.

Una de las muchas cosas de las que se jactaba abiertamente el racista J. Edgar Hoover era su desprecio por los líderes del pueblo afroamericano y el movimiento independentista puertorriqueño, específicamente el Partido Nacionalista y antecesor del Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño – Movimiento Pro-Independencia.  

¿En qué se basó COINTELPRO?  

Los agentes encubiertos profesionales del FBI, la CIA y la policía están capacitados para utilizar chismes, acusaciones falsas y conflictos personales como una de sus técnicas principales, especialmente para manipular los sentimientos de los individuos emocionalmente débiles, de mente estrecha y egoístas.  

En lo que se basa principalmente esta estrategia para evitar el surgimiento de un nuevo movimiento progresista/revolucionario es en la ausencia de pensamiento crítico en una sociedad que generalmente acepta la práctica de humillar a oponentes o vergüenza grupal  en medios sociales, conocido como “cancel culture” en inglés.  

Además, para lograr esta parte necesaria del espionaje, las agencias gubernamentales mantienen archivos que contienen perfiles psicológicos de las personas, con el fin de elegir a quiénes pueden manipular y dirigir, en momentos precisos para incitar y agravar disputas internas.  

Estos suelen ser individuos conocidos por ser chismosos y elementos inestables que participan en campañas de susurros. Además, estos individuos también son conocidos por su indiferencia si el movimiento logra o no sus objetivos políticos.  

El FBI y la policía se enfocaron principalmente en destruir el Partido Pantera Negra.

El estado usa estos métodos para lograr el resultado deseado de destruir reputaciones y paralizar círculos progresistas con divisiones. La estrategia final del gobierno es causar desmoralización, disminuir las energías de la gente y desacreditar la premisa política e ideológica de un movimiento.  

Es por eso siempre debemos estar atentos a los traficantes de rumores, chismosos y promotores de pequeños discursos entre nosotros. Al final, sirven como los mayores activos del estado. También podrían ser agentes gubernamentales pagados.  

Un examen minucioso de lo que reveló Edward Snowden debería decirnos fácilmente cómo COINTELPRO pudo haber destruido un movimiento en el pasado, pero el programa contrarrevolucionario del gobierno sigue existiendo. Cualquiera que sea el nombre que se les haya dado hoy a estas operaciones encubiertas, el objetivo sigue siendo el mismo: evitar que las personas oprimidas y explotadas construyan un nuevo movimiento revolucionario.  

Nunca debemos permitir que nos engañen y atraigan de nuevo a esa trampa. Seríamos culpables de complicidad al obstaculizar el desarrollo de un nuevo movimiento popular para la emancipación humana.  

Los Young Lords también fueron blanco de la operación: las tácticas de divide y vencerás de COINTELPRO.

La historia nos dice que nunca debemos subestimar el estado policial. Utilizarán todas las situaciones y cualquier problema para desviar nuestra atención de los desafíos que tenemos por delante. Se avecina una grave crisis económica, acompañada de una intensidad del racismo y la posibilidad de una guerra. El estado hará cualquier cosa para sofocar nuestros esfuerzos para contrarrestar tales escenarios posibles.  

Para aquellos que tienen una opinión contraria, deberían preguntarse: ¿Por qué la supremacía blanca muestra su cara fea tan descaradamente a un ritmo acelerado a medida que se erosionan las libertades civiles? Los hechos de hoy sirven como señales de advertencia para alertarnos de una crisis que se avecina en este país, que todos debemos enfrentar.  

Independientemente de cuáles sean nuestras plataformas, socialistas, anarquistas, nacionalistas, feministas, LGBTQ, etc., no debemos ser cómplices de lo que intentan los gobernantes. El estado policial no necesita nuestra ayuda para dividirnos aún más.  

Siempre hay una forma políticamente madura de llegar a la solución de cualquier problema. Siempre debemos tener en mente la victoria de la lucha de liberación.  

Las redes sociales deben utilizarse como una herramienta para educarnos y organizarnos frente al enemigo común. Si nuestros opresores usan Internet para mantenernos desorientados para preservar su poder, debemos esforzarnos por convertirnos en mejores usuarios de esa tecnología para combatir el sistema que perpetúa la opresión.  

El estado policial no es invencible. Su fuerza se basa en chismes venenosos, rumores y discursos mezquinos y divisivos. Las actividades encubiertas del estado contra los progresistas pueden ser reprimidas y detenidas. Sin embargo, debemos adaptar un estándar de uso del análisis crítico de la solidaridad y el respeto cuando surjan problemas o crisis entre nosotros. Es imperativo para nuestro crecimiento que no empleemos el uso reaccionario de la práctica de humillación grupal, o “cancel culture”.

¡Saludo a los mártires del LEVANTAMIENTO DE JAYUYA del 30 de octubre de 1950! 

Click here below for English version to this article:

Por Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

El 30 de octubre de 1950 (hace 72 años) tuvo lugar en el municipio de Jayuya un combate armado que se extendió por todo Puerto Rico. Se conoció como el Levantamiento de Jayuya. Es un evento en Puerto Rico que los historiadores burgueses y los apologistas del colonialismo estadounidense preferirían diluir o borrar por completo de la historia.  

Hombres y mujeres decididos a lograr una república puertorriqueña independiente protagonizaron atrevidos enfrentamientos armados con policías entrenados por los Estados Unidos y la Guardia Nacional. La furia que siguió se debió a la política colonial estadounidense, que comenzó con la invasión militar de 1898. Antes de octubre de 1950, los colonizadores estadounidenses estaban poniendo en marcha un plan brutal para aplastar el movimiento independentista y todas las expresiones de anticolonialismo.  

La colonización de Puerto Rico estuvo motivada por los intereses económicos capitalistas de los bancos y corporaciones gigantes. Países como Gran Bretaña, Francia, Alemania, Italia, Bélgica, Japón y Estados Unidos se enzarzaron en una feroz competencia entre ellos para obtener colonias. Con la conquista de Filipinas, Guam, Cuba y Puerto Rico, Estados Unidos se convirtió en una potencia imperialista. Los gobernantes estadounidenses se imaginaban a sí mismos controlando el mundo, especialmente América Latina, donde habían definido sus intenciones de hacerlo suyo en la Doctrina Monroe de 1823.  

Sin embargo, esta tendencia histórica no pasó desapercibida. Millones de personas resistieron el ataque salvaje de este sistema, especialmente después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y hasta bien entrada la década de 1960 y 1970 con el surgimiento de movimientos nacionalistas revolucionarios organizados en África, Asia y América Latina.  

Fue un período trascendental en la historia en el que los movimientos de liberación nacional se convirtieron en parte integral de la lucha de clases mundial, que llegó a su punto álgido en el apogeo de la llamada Guerra Fría. En los polos político-militares de este conflicto estaban Estados Unidos por un lado y la Unión Soviética por el otro.  

Las más notables en esta agitación histórica fueron las revoluciones en Argelia (1954), Angola (1961), Bolivia (1952), Congo (1960), China (1949), República Dominicana (1965), Egipto (1952), Irak (1958), Vietnam (1945) y Cuba (1959), así como los inspiradores movimientos de liberación de Palestina, Sudáfrica e Irlanda del Norte. El imperialismo no previó la resistencia de sus víctimas empuñando las armas en su búsqueda de la libertad. El levantamiento de Jayuya ocurrió en el contexto de las circunstancias mundiales existentes.  

El levantamiento de Jayuya de 1950  

Bajo la conducción del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, el Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico proclamó el derecho inalienable del pueblo puertorriqueño a la independencia. Estos luchadores por la libertad se ganaron el respeto de múltiples sectores de la población.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

El Partido Nacionalista también se hizo conocido por defender el derecho a utilizar cualquier medio necesario para lograr la liberación, incluido el uso de la fuerza armada. Esto los convirtió en el objetivo principal de las agencias represivas del colonialismo que buscaban destruir el movimiento independentista.  

Cuando la izquierda política en los Estados Unidos fue perseguida en las décadas de 1940 y 1950, como resultado de una cacería de brujas anticomunista encabezada por el notorio senador Joseph McCarthy, los puertorriqueños fueron testigos de una versión más dura de esa despreciable campaña. La gente en los EE. UU. apenas sabía que los nacionalistas eran sistemáticamente encarcelados y asesinados.  

Se crearon leyes para justificar el asesinato de nacionalistas a plena vista. La causa de la independencia fue criminalizada de plano. Tal fue la naturaleza de la Ley 53 de 1948, mejor conocida como Ley Mordaza; prohibió el Partido Nacionalista, prohibió la posesión y exhibición de la bandera puertorriqueña, prohibió las reuniones públicas, prohibió las críticas a la presencia estadounidense y la mención de la independencia en la literatura, las interpretaciones musicales y en todos los medios de comunicación. Esta ley viciosa tenía como objetivo destruir la identidad propia del pueblo puertorriqueño infundiendo miedo.  

Los medios de comunicación de EE. UU. solo contaron la narrativa falsa de los funcionarios de Washington que proyectaron el levantamiento como un “asunto interno entre los puertorriqueños”. Pero nada puede desestimar los fríos hechos que apuntan en sentido contrario: el supuesto “Gobierno de Puerto Rico” no nació por voluntad del pueblo, fue instalado por decreto colonial norteamericano. La ley federal exige que el presidente de los EE. UU. se haga cargo directamente de los asuntos allí en casos de emergencia. Además, el gobernador de Puerto Rico está obligado a informar y recibir instrucciones de la Casa Blanca.  

A principios de octubre de 1950, agentes de inteligencia del Partido Nacionalista obtuvieron información sobre un plan secreto del gobierno para eliminar el movimiento independentista. Las tácticas que se utilizarán en el ataque planificado implicaron atacar oficinas y casas de miembros del Partido Nacionalista. Con conocimiento del ataque inminente, la dirección del Partido optó por defender la dignidad nacional y su derecho a la autodefensa armada. Decidieron que lo mejor era tomar la iniciativa dando el primer golpe.  

En la mañana del 30 de octubre de 1950, una joven de nombre Blanca Canales encabezó un contingente armado de nacionalistas hacia Jayuya. Una vez arribados a la ciudad los patriotas lanzaron su ataque contra el cuartel de la policía. Luego, los nacionalistas rodearon la despreciada instalación y se produjo un tiroteo.  

Los funcionarios civiles y policiales se sorprendieron por la inesperada tenacidad de los luchadores por la libertad. Se ordenó a la policía que se rindiera y saliera del edificio con las manos en alto. Tan pronto como los nacionalistas tomaron el control de la situación, Blanca Canales procedió a dar la orden de incendiar el edificio.  

Rodeados por multitudes de residentes, los valientes patriotas levantaron la proscrita bandera puertorriqueña. Con su arma en alto, Blanca Canales agitó a los espectadores al gritar las históricas palabras de la lucha: “¡QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!” Declaró desafiante la independencia de Puerto Rico.

Blanca Canales
Blanca Canales bajo custodia.

 

También se produjeron violentos enfrentamientos entre policías y nacionalistas en Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas y otras localidades. En Arecibo se produjo un tiroteo en el sitio de la estación de policía en el que murieron varios nacionalistas. Entre los 12 patriotas heridos estaba el ex preso político Carlos Feliciano.  

Carlos Feliciano

En San Juan, la policía atacó la sede del Partido Nacionalista. El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado y otros emprendieron un combate armado hasta que fueron arrollados por los gases lacrimógenos. Luego, Campos fue condenado a cadena perpetua. Pero el gobernador títere de Estados Unidos, Luis Muños Marín, convenientemente indultó a Campos unos meses antes de su muerte en 1965. Muchos activistas independentistas, incluidos expertos médicos, sostienen que el deterioro físico de Campos se debió a la tortura con experimentos secretos de radiación.  

El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos realizó después de ser abrumado por gases lacrimógenos en un tiroteo con la policía.

Se desplegaron aviones militares para bombardear Jayuya en el que se destruyó el 70 por ciento del municipio. La Guardia Nacional inmediatamente presionó para reprimir el levantamiento y recuperar el control de la ciudad. Se impusieron nuevas medidas represivas en todo el país, incluida la ley marcial.  

La represión vino con la toma de la Guardia Nacional del municipio de Jayuya.
Los nacionalistas fueron tratados sin piedad por las fuerzas armadas del colonialismo.
Las mujeres del Partido Nacionalista lucharon junto a sus homólogos masculinos con valor.

Un apagón de noticias mantuvo los eventos de la rebelión fuera de los principales medios de comunicación para evitar la condena del colonialismo en el tribunal de la opinión pública. Para garantizar el silenciamiento de las voces de la lucha emergente, los funcionarios estadounidenses intensificaron sus esfuerzos para tergiversar los hechos. Cuando los medios de comunicación preguntaron sobre la rebelión, el presidente Harry Truman proyectó falsamente que el conflicto era entre puertorriqueños.  

El 1 de noviembre de 1950, los miembros del Partido Nacionalista Oscar Collazo y Griselio Torresola fueron a Blair House en Washington, D.C. para asesinar al presidente Harry Truman. Su propósito previsto era contrarrestar las mentiras de Washington sobre el conflicto ante el mundo. Torresola murió y Collazo resultó gravemente herido en un tiroteo con los guardaespaldas de la Policía Capital y el Servicio Secreto de Truman. Pero el valiente acto de los dos mártires trajo a la luz lo que estaba ocurriendo en Puerto Rico.  

El significado de Jayuya  

Mientras los puertorriqueños se rebelaban con las armas en la mano, continuaban las luchas anticoloniales en África, Asia, el Caribe y América Latina. El Levantamiento de Jayuya en Puerto Rico fue parte de esa resistencia global de pueblos oprimidos y explotados.

Aunque los esfuerzos del Partido Nacionalista no lograron expulsar el colonialismo, se logró una victoria política. Este episodio demostró que los colonizadores obligarían a la gente a rebelarse. Por grande que sea el alcance represivo, nunca podrá borrar de la mente de los pueblos colonizados el orgullo de su identidad nacional y sus tradiciones revolucionarias.

El Levantamiento de Jayuya obligó a los gobernantes estadounidenses a cambiar su forma de dominación administrativa. En 1952, el Gobernador de Puerto Rico ya no era un oficial militar de alto rango designado por el Presidente de los Estados Unidos. Se introdujeron elecciones para el cargo de gobernador, pero solo para disfrazar la naturaleza colonizadora de la presencia estadounidense. Para 1957 se levanta la Ley 53 de 1948, (Ley Mordaza). La eliminación de esta notoria ley incluyó el levantamiento de la prohibición de la bandera puertorriqueña.

Si se examinara la cronología de las atrocidades cometidas por los EE. UU. en Puerto Rico, como la esterilización clandestina de mujeres, la epidemia de cáncer causada por los bombardeos de la Marina de los EE. UU. y la destrucción de Vieques, las miles de muertes causadas por el huracán María y la deliberada política de abandono que siguió y otros ejemplos de genocidio, entonces se puede comprender  por qué se justificó el levantamiento.

Por su propio razonamiento, los colonizadores estadounidenses también recordarán el Levantamiento de Jayuya, ya que reconocen la amenaza potencial que representan los puertorriqueños una vez que se rebelen. Y en ese inevitable momento las lecciones aprendidas de la experiencia de Jayuya serán decisivas en la futura batalla por una república puertorriqueña libre.

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

Homenaje a una guerrera feminista Boricua, Luisa Capetillo

For English click the link below:

https://carlitoboricua.blog/?p=6097&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=6122

Por Carlito Rovira

Nacida en Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Luisa Capetillo (28 de Octubre 1879-10 de Octubre 1922) fue una mujer guerrera que hizo historia en la lucha contra la opresión de la mujer. Fue una defensora de la Independencia de Puerto Rico que se convirtió en una de las líderes sindicales más famosas en la historia de esa nación colonizada. También fue escritora, poeta, feminista, activista política, socialista y, más concretamente, anarquista.

Hay mucho que contar sobre la excepcional vida de Luisa Capetillo y sus múltiples aportes a nuestra historia. A una edad temprana, se familiarizó con la literatura socialista lo cual definió quién sería por el resto de su vida.

Luisa Capetillo vivió en un momento de la historia en el que el mundo se vio envuelto en luchas obreras. Las huelgas laborales estallaron en todo el mundo capitalista cuando la lucha por la jornada de ocho horas, la igualdad salarial para las mujeres y el derecho a organizar sindicatos ocuparon un lugar central en la mayoría de los países.

La clase obrera y los campesinos pobres estuvieron a la altura de las circunstancias en amargas luchas contra los gobernantes capitalistas. Esta corriente histórica se acentuó con la Revolución Socialista Rusa de 1917 y la Revolución Agraria Mexicana de 1910-20.

En el entorno colonial de Puerto Rico, la explotación capitalista no fue diferente, y también lo fue el instinto de resistencia de los trabajadores puertorriqueños. En todo Puerto Rico, los trabajadores buscaron formas de resistir las duras condiciones que enfrentaron al ser doblemente explotados por gigantes corporativos extranjeros bajo la dominación colonial estadounidense.

Luisa Capetillo era una madre soltera que trabajaba como lectora. Su trabajo consistía en ir a diferentes fábricas de cigarros para leer en voz alta artículos de periódicos y cuentos a los trabajadores del tabaco mientras se sentaban a realizar su trabajo.

Representación de Luisa Capetillo leyendo cuentos a trabajadores tabacaleros.

Durante el auge de la lucha por el sufragio femenino en Puerto Rico, Luisa fue muy activa como organizadora. Sin embargo, los puntos de vista de Luisa diferían marcadamente de los demás con respecto a la solución para detener la opresión de las mujeres. Ella creía que la lucha por la emancipación de la mujer era inseparable y estaba entrelazada con la lucha de clases.


Un Retrato que hice de Luisa Capetillo en Septiembre 2021.
Dimensiones: 24″ X 30″, pintado con pintura acrílica sobre lienzo.

Como líder en la Federacion de Torcedores de Tabaco (Federation of Tabacco Rollers) y la Federación Libre de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico (Federation of Libertarian Workers of Puerto Rico), Luisa viajó por todo Puerto Rico desafiando las condiciones inhumanas de los trabajadores, especialmente para las mujeres. . Como organizadora laboral, Luisa luchó por los derechos de los trabajadores y la igualdad salarial de las mujeres en la industria tabacalera. Escribió muchos artículos en periódicos sindicales que circulaban por todo Puerto Rico.

Capetillo creía que sus actividades marcarían el comienzo de un mundo mejor. Como resultado de esta convicción, aspiraba a construir una organización laboral para todo el Caribe. Como parte de este esfuerzo viajó a Nueva York, Tampa, Cuba, República Dominicana y otros lugares.

Luisa Capetillo es quizás más conocida por desafiar las tradiciones atrasadas de género y vestimenta. Estas tradiciones absurdas fueron arraigadas en la cultura latinoamericana por la Iglesia Católica Romana. Luisa prefirió usar pantalones de hombre por comodidad y como una declaración de protesta a la opresión de las mujeres.  

Luisa Capetillo se vistia para desafiar tradiciones atrasadas.

En 1915, mientras caminaba por las calles de La Habana, Cuba, fue arrestada por la selección de su manera de vestir. Su desafío se sintió ampliamente cuando ridiculizó la lógica de su arresto, al demostrar en la corte que no se violó ninguna ley por su preferencia de vestimenta. Como resultado, el caso fue sobreseído y Capetillo fue caracterizada por la prensa en todo el Caribe como la “Juana de Arca puertorriqueña”.

Hoy, Luisa Capetillo es recordada por su valentía como organizadora laboral. Su legado es monumental en la historia de la clase trabajadora y por su valor defendiendo los derechos humanos de las mujeres puertorriqueñas.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Smear Campaign Against Carlos “Carlito” Rovira – By Rebekah McAlister

https://www.lindabastaya.com/file-c-users-19176-onedrive-desktop-20211012115234884-20-6-pdf

By Rebekah McAlister

Relevant Terms:

  • Restorative Justice A system which sees crime as an act against the victim and shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community. Restorative Justice holds that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what needs to change to prevent future violations.

  • Due Process Fair treatment, a citizen’s right.

  • Abuse to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. Smear Campaign – a plan to discredit a public figure by making false or dubious accusations.

  • Defamation – the action of damaging the good reputation of someone. Slander – the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more people something that is untrue and damaging about the person.

  • Libel – a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation, a written defamation.

———————————————-

On Monday, September 13, 2021, the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) NYC, released a public statement to their listserv which leveled a targeted smear at Carlito Rovira to defame his character and banish him from the NYC Left. This statement depicted Carlito as a sexual predator and even insinuated that he had engaged in sexual contact with a minor by repeating “our youngest, most vulnerable member” repeatedly. Shortly thereafter, an entire website devoted to this defamatory campaign was posted entitled “https://carlitoroviraexposed.com/.” In her statement on this site, the unnamed accuser says that she was in her twenties during her affair with Carlito! The age of consent in New York State is seventeen years old, so this propagandistic insinuation of Carlito’s having contact with a minor is false, deliberately misleading, and manipulative.


On Monday, September 13, 2021, the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) founded and led by Dr. Johanna Fernandez, PhD and associate professor at Baruch College -CUNY, released a public statement to their listserv which leveled a targeted smear at Carlito Rovira to defame his character and banish him from the NYC Left. This statement depicted Carlito as a sexual predator and even insinuated that he had engaged in sexual contact with a minor by repeating “our youngest, most vulnerable member” repeatedly. Shortly thereafter, an entire website devoted to this defamatory campaign was posted entitled “https://carlitoroviraexposed.com/.” In her statement on this site, the unnamed accuser says that she was in her twenties during her affair with Carlito. The age of consent in New York State is seventeen years old, so this propagandistic insinuation of Carlito’s having contact with a minor is false, deliberately misleading, and manipulative.


The Truth is that Carlito and the Unnamed Adult Woman Had a Consensual Affair & She is Now Falsely Accusing Carlito in Order to Take Him Down


I will call the unnamed person making these claims against Carlito, Participant A. Sometime toward the end of the summer of 2016, Participant A whom I considered a friend and fellow comrade, told me that she was attracted to Carlito and was thinking about becoming intimate with him. Participant A expressed that Carlito had “offered to give her some sexual experience,” that this was tempting to her and that she was having sexual fantasies about Carlito. She said to me that wanted to have sex with him. Participant A expressed hesitation around the fact that she and Carlito were not actually dating, but in fact friends who were talking about having sex. I advised her in no uncertain terms not to do it. Also, I advised her that sex is very intimate for women, especially if she was exploring her sexuality. I told her that ‘just getting some experience’ was not a realistic plan and that she would develop deeper feelings for Carlito that would end in heartbreak and disaster. Surely, personal disaster that would hurt her and destroy her relationship with Carlito but damage the entire Campaign. The age difference was the least of my worries, but it did play into my advice. Don’t do it, I said. It is tempting, I know, but the consequences will be very hurtful.


Several weeks later, we spoke again, and she said that while she was very much enjoying the attention from Carlito, she had decided not to engage with him sexually. She stated that she wanted them to stop interacting in a way that was flirtatious and sexually suggestive. I asked if she had asked him to stop and she said she had not. At no point did she say that she felt threatened or coerced. I said that Carlito is a respectful person and adheres to boundaries and suggested that she should tell him that she wanted to end the sexual talk. I believe that they were going to the movies, or dinner or something around 96th street in Manhattan. According to Participant A, she followed my advice, told him she wanted to talk, and told him she no longer wanted to engage in sexual conversations. She told me afterwards that I had been correct in my prediction of how such a request would go: he agreed that they would end the sexual talk and that they would continue to be friends. This issue was done – as far as I knew.


About a year later, in the summer of 2017, Participant A mentioned casually to me that once again she and Carlito were having sexually suggestive conversations that she was enjoying, but she was not sure it was a good idea or if she should engage intimately with him. She mentioned it as if all our previous conversations about their relationship had never happened. At this time, Carlito was engaged to be married to Ana Betancourt, whom I knew and cared for. I was incredulous that Participant A was being so casual about continuing her relationship with Carlito. She was clearly still enjoying the attention. I found the resurfacing of this past conversation to be exasperating – as if I were trapped in the film Groundhog Day. One thing I discovered about Participant A over years of our friendship, was that she will listen to your advice for hours and shine you on, and then completely ignore any counsel you have given and even act surprised that you have any opinion on the matter. It appears she refuses to grow or challenge herself at all. (This was corroborated by at least one current and one former member of CBMH with whom I was close).


As a result, this time when the conversation about Carlito reemerged, I advised against it again, especially considering his current relationship, but I also said that I did not have energy to talk to her about it anymore. After that, Participant A stopped confiding in me regarding this affair, perhaps because she knew I did not approve, and she had not taken my advice. She had obviously decided that she wanted to continue to engage him, as evidenced by the text-message screenshots that are posted on the website. That’s the last I heard about it until now. The accusation leveled on the CBMH’s defamatory website that I ‘enabled the abuse’ and then told Participant A to ‘stay silent’ and that ‘no one would believe her’ is not only a slanderous lie it is an inversion of the truth.


Furthermore, according to the afore-mentioned text-message screenshot ‘evidence’ on their own website, Carlito was very explicit with Participant A about their mutual sexual attraction. Is it crude, offensive? -perhaps. However, this was a private exchange with a 27–28-year-old adult woman. If he had been ‘grooming’ her, he would not have been so direct about wanting sex. In my experience, abusers pretend they are up to something else, they are not direct and explicit with sexual requests, as Carlito was in the published text-exchange. At no point does she say, “don’t talk to me like that” or “no, I do not want to have sex.” Participant A may have been hurt because she wanted an actual relationship, (which the texts suggest and was my concern when advising her not to do it). While I certainly have compassion for her pain, this is not a sexual violation nor abuse.


Participant A Is Being Duplicitous and Manipulative


Participant A has refused to come forward, even amidst a flurry of support. She has posted online claiming to ‘defend the victim,’ even though she herself IS the victim – she is playing two roles. This is hard to wrap your mind around. This is not only a truly disturbing level of dissociation, but it also suggests that the goal here is not to give the accuser her chance to speak publicly against the accused. The CBMH members who know who she is and are going along with her playing victim and savior are also duplicitous. Maybe they are not seeing that it’s duplicitous to play both roles. It is not ethical nor honest to be both the victim and the savior writing statements on behalf of the anonymous victim. She was not interested in the self-help resources dealing with abuse that I gave to her to support her around conversations we had about her abusive relationship with her father. This deliberately misleading behavior is manipulative. This is in fact abuse. I am aware that sometimes individuals reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment need to remain anonymous for safety reasons. However, given that no sexual violation occurred here, and this individual is being deceitful, she cannot legitimately claim the need for the cloak of secrecy. I therefore reveal that Sophia Williams is making these false claims also known as “Participant A”


Johanna Fernandez’s Secret Affair with Her Younger Former Student at Baruch College & How She Manipulated Us in a Smear Campaign Against Him


I will call him Participant B. Both Sophia Williams and Participant B were students of Johanna’s at Baruch and were recruited by her into the CBMH. Johanna disclosed to me that she felt sexual tension with Participant B when he was her student. After recruiting him into the CBMH, Johanna put him in the position of Co-Chair of the group (talk about grooming) and at some point, they began to have a relationship that Johanna insisted be kept secret from the group. At a certain point, frequent and visible hostility between the two of them forced the relationship into the open. He turned to me for help, and confided in me about the relationship, asking for my help to mediate between them. Johanna was outraged that he had disclosed their affair to me, despite she and I having a very close friendship at the time. She and I had discussed the tension between her and Participant B on numerous occasions, at great length. She had never breathed a word that they were secretly dating.


After I was brought in on this secret sexual relationship, Johanna related to me a tale of him covertly abusing her. The accusation was vague, but I believed it because I trusted her unconditionally. Johanna pressured me to send him a long letter detailing all her complaints about him, with which I thought I agreed at the time, but did not feel right sending to him and refused. She only relented on pressuring me to send it when I told her that my mother, a psychiatrist, had advised me that my sending such a letter would be inappropriate, unhelpful, and not mediation – which I am not qualified to do anyway. Johanna subsequently told a few other CBMH members who were close to her (including Carlito) that it had been an abusive relationship and she needed our help to confront Participant B. Again, she gave no specifics, and none were asked for. We loved her, we felt protective of her, and we wanted to defend her. So, we went along with it and tied him to the (metaphorical) whipping post – twice.


During the first confrontation, involving Carlito, Johanna, Sophia Williams, myself, and Participant B, we berated him for hours in Carlito’s (and Ana’s) house. All the way home in the car, Johanna was upset with me and Sophia for not being willing to continue to castigate Participant B on the way out the door. She ranted about how awful he was and how we were not defending her sufficiently. Several months after this, we ambushed him in a full CBMH meeting to discuss his alleged ‘abuse.’ During this meeting, Johanna accused us of not “protecting” her from this abuse, which in the public meeting some members pushed back on (including one of the signers of the letter against Carlito) – how could we protect you when the relationship was kept secret from us? We did not get a clear answer, just insinuations that we had let her down. That we had ‘enabled abuse.’ I pushed it into the back of my mind at the time, but the accusation had been leveled: we had not had her back, our loyalty could not be trusted. She manipulated the situation to appear as if she was a victim who had been abandoned by her allies, and implied that we were responsible for her being allegedly abused. This, despite our not knowing about the relationship.


Johanna continued to assert that she had been abused, despite her not going into specifics. Since Participant B did not actively refute the accusations, none of us openly questioned the narrative. Participant B left the organization, of his own volition not long after that. However, I cannot say I blame him for feeling exiled and acting on that feeling. I would have done the same (in fact I did leave when I felt that such manipulative attacks on me were imminent). He left, but no one asked Johanna for a shred of accountability, although the leader and founder of our organization had engaged in a secret, toxic relationship with a former student, causing our organization to become sidetracked in our purpose. Indeed, this chapter risked the very existence of our collective. We were all deceived by Johanna; yet we were blamed by her as well.


Moreover, since the CBMH’s statement repeatedly highlights the age difference between Carlito and Sophia. Johanna’s former student /co-Chair / secret boyfriend (Participant B) is nearly twenty years younger than she – and I do not remember anyone ever bringing this up. Which situation has more of an unequal power dynamic: an older unofficial mentor or your older college professor? In any case, the hysteria over the age difference is blatant hypocrisy. One last point of import here is that Johanna turned to Carlito for help when she decided to confront Participant B publicly. She relied on Carlito’s tough demeanor and history as a fighter in the YLP to intimidate Participant B. It is ironic, contradictory, and hypocritical that it is those very same qualities of Carlito’s that she is targeting now through another smear campaign.


Johanna Has a Vendetta Against Carlito


During the winter of 2018 – 2019, Johanna was working on finishing her book on the Young Lords Party, for which she had interviewed Carlito countless times since 2008. Carlito’s fiancé had just died tragically the previous spring. Seemingly out of nowhere, he and Johanna started butting heads over the history of the YLP. This seemed strange, as they had been close friends for years, together they were the political backbone of our organization, they had worked closely on Johanna’s research together for over a decade. Additionally, she and I, and a several other CBMH people had been giving Carlito a lot of support as he grieved the loss of Ana. Since I was close with both Johanna and Carlito at the time, they both called me frequently to vent about the constant arguments. As I recall, they were clashing on the history of the Young Lords, an organization Johanna was researching and authoring a book on, of which Carlito was a vital member. He relayed one anecdote to me that from this period that I feel is very revealing: During a meeting that the two of them were having, Carlito disagreed with her about how something or other had happened, and she told him, “Carlito, I wrote the book,” – as a way to communicate that she knew better than he, even though she hadn’t been born at that time and he was there.


Johanna’s perspective in our many conversations about conflict with Carlito was never clear to me. She kept saying he was “crazy” and asking, “what’s wrong with him?!” When I suggested at one point that he might be wrestling with grief at the loss of his fiancé, she dismissed this possibility. During my conversations with Carlito about arguments with Johanna, he was calm, albeit frustrated, when telling me what happened. In contrast, Johanna was highly agitated when relating her disagreements with him. One day while speaking on the phone with Johanna about Carlito, I remember becoming frustrated because she was saying the same thing over and over again and working herself into a frenzy. I remember saying something like “I need you to stop and focus on something else and we can come back to this,” to which she responded, “okay fine but…” and launched right back into the anti-Carlito diatribe. This conversation went on and on and I finally just excused myself.


Shortly before I left the organization, we were in her car on our way to an event and I spoke with Johanna about how she and Carlito seemed locked in a conflict out of which there was no clear exit. I remember comparing what I was seeing with a metaphor of two sharks locked in conflict: Both of their teeth face backward, so constantly tugging just leads to further enmeshment. In order to resolve or reset, one of them must let go. I said that it was difficult for me and other CBMH people to have them constantly arguing and that this was disruptive to our collective. She immediately zeroed in on my distress and proceeded to tell me that this was hard for me because of my own childhood trauma. I was aghast at this blatant deflection and pop psychology judgement on something that was irrelevant and untrue.


During meetings when Carlito was not present, Johanna began turning CBMH calls into complain-about-Carlito sessions and was consistently leveling the accusation that he was acting in a way that was chauvinistic and macho, an assessment for which I saw no grounds and said so at the time. Johanna did not level this critique to Carlito in public or to me when we spoke one-on-one. At one point when Carlito was on the call, he volunteered to make a flyer for an upcoming event, and Johanna accepted. When he subsequently emailed us a draft of the flyer, she began texting me on a thread with Sophia and Gwen. Her texts were coming in quick and angry succession: She appeared to be having a total meltdown about how much she hated the flyer and how awful and misogynistic Carlito was for producing it. It was a picture of Mumia and a slogan in solidarity with Venezuela, and I did not see her point at all, but I was the only one who pushed back. When she texted us that he was “swinging his dick around,” I had had enough – I took myself off this text chain. Shortly thereafter, Carlito and I both chose to leave the CBMH. The truth, regardless of whether Johanna or anyone else wants to face it, is that she pushed us out, just as she pushed out the former co-chair with whom she had had the secret toxic relationship.


Johanna Knew About this Consensual Affair Between Two Adults WHILE it was happening in 2017 & She is Currently Running a Smear Campaign Against Carlito


The unfortunate cascade of emails many on the Left have been receiving recently represent the final phase of a pattern that Johanna has repeated and again: she recruits people, she becomes very close with them, she builds them up and encourages them to take responsibility within projects she’s working on, only to subsequently devalue them. As soon as her control over them starts to slip she begins to discard them. She did it to Participant B, she did it to me, and she is now attempting to discard Carlito from the entire Left and even from the entire world. In Johanna’s mass email of 10/4/21 she claimed to not be the author of the CBMH’s smear of Carlito, as the twelve signers of a previous email also attested. I was there for many times of drafting of a document with these very people, and I distinctly recognize Johanna’s hand of influence when I see it. I also recognize in the flurry of emails coming out over the last few weeks in favor of this defamation plot, the recruiting of allies by a manipulator to attempt to gain control over a target.


Johanna is using an “old ruling class trick” (her words) known as lying. She has taken things she knows to be true and has distorted them, all to take down a target. For example, Johanna knew at least as far back as 2017 about the exchanges between Carlito and Sophia, as she and I discussed their consensual relationship and agreed that while it was ill advised it was their personal business. Johanna knew as far back as 2014 about the information from forty years ago written salaciously within the CBMH’s libelous website. Thus, the claim made repeatedly in the CBMH’s statements, that they began ‘investigating’ these incidents ‘as soon as they found out, one year ago’ is false. Johanna has known the truth about these parts of Carlito’s past for years, as she worked closely with him throughout, on research for her book.


Johanna’s aim is clearly to take down Carlito, and from the wanted poster, even for his death because of this extreme character assassination. The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home is running an event on 10/16/21 under the guise of survivors of abuse testifying, but there are no actual survivors scheduled to give testimony. Additionally, two prominent, longtime MOVE supporters who have left MOVE expressed concerns under a flyer for the event that Sophia posted on her Facebook page. The former MOVE supporters said while they were certainly in solidarity with survivors of abuse, that two of the panelists at the CBMH’s 10/16 event are implicated in the abuse of MOVE survivors. In response to their questioning the event’s lineup, no one from CBMH addressed their concerns, one member saying only that the event was not all about MOVE survivors. Johanna commented publicly, going after both former MOVE supporters with vicious, vague, and hyperbolic attacks on their character.


At the bottom of the flyer for the 10/16 “speak-out” it says ‘for more information’ click here, on their “exposing Carlito” website. What?! This does not add up. So, we are speaking about survivors of abuse but not hearing from them, but for more information, please ingest our smear of one person. Wait, are we hearing from survivors or taking down Carlito with no hint of due process and very vague manipulative accusations of serious crimes? I think the purpose is clear. This has nothing to do with survivors. There is no attending to their healing, their needs, or any semblance of restorative justice. Johanna is lying and manipulating the truth to take down someone whom she perceives to have challenged her power. To accomplish this, she is utilizing a covert smear campaign, to which she has recruited a handful of allies who admire her so much that they trust her word unconditionally. I know, I used to be one of them. This, in fact, is narcissistic abuse.


Restorative Justice and Due Process


The call for actual restorative justice “shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community” as well as seeking to support the perpetrator in repairing the damage, in a way that feels safe for survivors, as well as to come together as a community to prevent further harm, and to plan for a healthier, safer environment for all in the future (Zehr, 1990). That is not what we were doing with Participant B, and that is not what the CBMH and supporters are seeking to do with Carlito. This character assassination campaign against Carlito claims to be advancing the cause of “justice,” yet nowhere was there any hint of due process or restorative action of any kind. What is the purpose of these letters and the entire ‘Exposing Carlito’ website? What is the end goal? A public crucifixion? Carlito beat up or even killed? The poster with Carlito’s photo looks like a wanted poster and the “Carlito Rovira Exposed” website looks like you have uncovered a mass murderer, not dug up painful anecdotes to fit a vendetta.


What is the goal of a targeted smear like this without any attempt at anything resembling due process or restorative justice? If we are to exist within a democratic framework, even those whom we despise are entitled to a fair hearing to determine innocence or guilt. If you genuinely believe in due process, then you defend it even for your enemies – you do not pick and choose based on what you think about the accused. You either believe in due process or you do not. I am reminded of Martin Niemöller’s famous post-war piece “First They Came,” which cautions us that if you stand by passively while someone else’s rights are being curtailed, it is only a matter of time until your own liberty is at risk. I would hope that we are all in agreement with wanting to rebuild society in a just and humane manner. Allies of Carlito have been asking politely and diplomatically for a meeting to openly discuss these allegations. These requests have been flatly refused and demonized as chauvinistic, when what they represent is transparency, due process, and the potential for restorative justice.


Survivors Must Have Agency


We must inject responsibility and agency into this conversation about survivors. I reject this infantilizing of women, where they have no agency. At some point you have to say, “these are my standards – I don’t date unavailable men or I want my first sexual experience to be with you or I don’t.” CBMH did not have any clear standards. No rules. No boundaries. No structures and routines for negotiating conflict, recognizing harm, or facilitating reconciliation and healing. The CBMH was an anything-goes, chaotic cult of personality where whether what you were doing was up ‘to snuff’ was up to our leader and could change on a whim. As a result of this disorder, messy relationships of all kinds will happen. As we know, they happen even when guidelines and structures are in place! This is not to say we should not hold people accountable. On the contrary, there should be structures in place to prevent exploitation of power to prevent abuse in the first place, especially for leadership. We should have processes for protecting survivors and we need to hold abusive men (and women) responsible for their behavior. We must expect men to be responsible for themselves, but we also must expect women to have agency and control over their own choices. If someone manipulates and coerces you, physically or emotionally, that is an abuse of power. If you are unable to leave a cult and forced into child-marriages, as is alleged by the MOVE survivors, that is abuse. However, being in a relationship with someone who has a different standard than yours may cause you pain or an unpleasant experience, but you have the agency to say that is not my standard and I will not engage with you like that. That is not abuse.


My Time in the Campaign


I joined the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home in January 2013 after attending a screening of a film about Mumia’s case and meeting and connecting with Johanna. I met Carlito not long after joining the Campaign, sometime in the Spring of 2013. I worked closely with both Johanna and Carlito, as well as many other CBMH people on many projects about which I felt and feel great pride. We hosted screenings, concerts, and book talks, made our own mini movies, put on a play for which we wrote lines and music, we interviewed long-time activists and created a film series around their invaluable work for our collective freedom. I maintain that we did good work together: we helped to raise awareness around the importance and details of Mumia’s case, and we worked to advance both the cause of freedom for political prisoners and the wider struggle for revolutionary justice. Were we bringing Mumia closer to freedom? We were trying with all our hearts. Though victories were few and far between, there have been a handful, and I pray that one of these victories will unlock the door forever and bring Mumia home to his family, to live out his days in health, peace and safety, as the brilliant teacher that he is, advancing the causes of radical education, justice, and prison abolition into the future.


I cut my political teeth in this organization. I learned so much from Johanna and from Carlito. My favorite time, ironically, used to be when they disagreed politically because it was extremely illuminating to listen to their argument and reflect on each of their points. They were my political mentors, and the Campaign was my political home, its members were my family. There was a long time where I felt more comfortable and accepted within the Campaign than anywhere else, I had ever been. I came of age politically in this organization and owe a great debt of gratitude to both afore-mentioned mentors, among others, who, over countless hours, endless conference calls, car trips, conferences, protests and demonstrations, book talks, late-night (hilarious) meetings and work sessions, helped me shape and hone my political identity.


My Own Escape from Abuse, Recovery, Healing and Growth


During my time in CBMH, I escaped from an abusive relationship (with someone outside of the group). A vital part of my recovery journey has been to sharpen my boundaries around what type of behavior I will and will not tolerate, instead of giving everyone many chances to be better than the last time they treated me in a way that was manipulative or otherwise unacceptable to me – my standard. Over years in CBMH, I began to see increasingly clearly that the group had problems with boundaries, that our leader was chaotic and enforced chaos while blocking other people’s attempts at implementing structure or boundaries. There was a huge amount of time spent on interpersonal drama, with nothing to show for it on a personal level or for the wider movement. A prime example is the time we spent being dragged into the drama of Johanna’s relationship with her former student, with nothing positive accomplished in the end.


An essential tool of my healing from abuse was going into psychotherapy (which ironically, Johanna strongly supported). I went into private counseling and mentoring around surviving abuse, as well as healing and thriving afterwards. As the years went on and I was learning how to draw healthier boundaries, I started to recognize what was unhealthy about both the Campaign and Johanna’s dysfunctional behavior. Out of the growth of recovery, it slowly dawned on me that I was enmeshed in a cult-like atmosphere in the CBMH at the very least that I was being manipulated. When Johanna heightened the frequency and vitriol of her attacks on Carlito and began to insinuate that I was also to blame for the flaws she perceived in Carlito, I finally realized it was time to go. It is with no joy that I dig all of this up. To those of you who are still in solidarity with Johanna and who mean well, I am sorry if you are hurt by this. As a former member of this collective and close friend of many of the signers, the accuser as well as the accused, I am in a unique position now to shed light on the veracity of the claims against Carlito and the motivation for this character assassination campaign.


What Does This Have to Do with Freeing Mumia and Building a Better World?


Mumia needs this like the plague. The enemies of Mumia- there are many – would love nothing more than to catch wind that his name has been pegged to this imagined scandal that bears no relation to him. Furthermore, what is the history of Mumia’s case? He’s a man who was falsely accused. He is a man who was not allowed to speak for himself, who was denied due process. Mumia’s name was slandered publicly, and he was denied a fair hearing. He was convicted in the court of public opinion without the public getting to hear his side of the story. For obvious reasons, an entirely baseless smear campaign has no place in the CBMH.


Most enraging about this situation is that the silencing of women of color, the silencing of Black women, the silencing of Indigenous women, the silencing of all women, does happen. Sexual and emotional abuse and exploitation happens. These and other awful things happen. When false allegations are made publicly and salaciously like this with no legitimate goal and no due process, to satisfy someone is twisted egotistical political and personal envy, it makes it more difficult for victims to come forward and be heard and taken seriously. Shame on you Johanna, and shame on everyone uncritically going along with this public crucifixion. Of course, we support survivors, but we cannot uncritically demand someone’s head. No good will come of this.


There should be enough revolutionary love and celebration for all of us and it is heartbreaking to see people unwilling to make the room that so many of us so desperately wanted to accommodate for both of the CBMH’s political leaders to be amazing, and yes – flawed human beings. Fellow revolutionaries, there is so much work to be done. Conflict happens. Let us proceed with caution, compassion, and honesty. May we all live to see a world without prisons, police, and the horrors of capitalist exploitation. A world where Mumia and all our beloved political prisoners, and indeed every one of us, will be free.


Rebekah McAlister
October 2021
Former member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, NYC


Lolita Lebrón, A Bold Fighter for Puerto Rican Independence November 19, 1919 – August 1, 2010

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Throughout Puerto Rican history, women have played an exemplary and leading role in the struggle against colonialism and oppression. Political and military leaders like Mariana Bracetti, Lola Rodríguez De Tío, Juana Colón, Blanca Canales and many others, have been models of courage and devotion to the struggle for independence and self-determination.

One of the most widely known and respected women from the 20th century Puerto Rican liberation struggle is Lolita Lebrón.

LOLITA LEBRON

Lolita was born on November 19, 1919 to a poor working-class family, at a time when U.S. colonial rule was openly brutal with rampant social misery. Her family lived in the legendary city of Lares, known for the famous 1868 “El Grito de Lares” uprising against Spanish colonialism and chattel slavery.

The hardships Lolita’s family faced during her youth, brought upon by the tightening of U.S. colonialism’s economic dominance in the country, contributed to Lolita Lebrón’s strong character. As a young woman, like so many of her compatriots, she decided to leave Puerto Rico in 1940 in search of a better life.

After World War II and into the 1960s, an average of 63,000 people migrated annually to the United States from Puerto Rico. By the end of this migration, nearly half of the Puerto Rican nation would be uprooted. They were pushed off their land in order to make way for lucrative agricultural and mining industries. This was an aspect of Washington’s colonial policy in the interests of giant capitalist corporations but at the expense of the Puerto Rican masses.

Here is a canvas portrait I painted as a tribute to Lolita Lebron. It is 24″ X 30″, acrylic paint on canvas.

Lolita Lebrón settled in New York City’s East Harlem, then the largest community of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico. Like so many who migrated to find work in New York City, Lolita was employed as a stitcher in the city’s garment district. She immediately came face to face with the racism and exploitation that defines life for immigrant workers in the United States.

The Nationalist Party

Flag of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.

Having a proud sense of her self-identity and a strong belief in the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence, Lolita increasingly developed resentment for the presence of a foreign invader in the homeland she adored. And because Lolita witnessed first-hand the suffering of her people who were compelled by colonialism to migrate to a distant land to endure racism and discrimination, she joined the New York committee of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, led by Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

The Nationalist Party was banned in 1938. It continued its activities under intense repression, especially following the 1950 Jayuya Uprising and the attempted assassination in the same year of President Harry S. Truman by Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola in retaliation for the crackdown that followed Jayuya. During the anti-communist, anti-labor and racist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, the Nationalist Party committee in New York City secretly operated under the name “Movimiento Libertador” (Liberation Movement).

The New York committee served as a rear guard within the colonizing country to gather political and financial support for the movement in Puerto Rico. They held many public meetings with the hope of organizing the Puerto Rican community and to draw allies around the issue of independence.

Colonizers shift tactics

Taking advantage of the imprisonment of the revolutionary leadership, the U.S. government shifted its methods of disguising its role as colonizers. The governorship of Puerto Rico was no longer to be a military official appointed by the U.S. president. Instead, the U.S. granted supposedly “free elections” from among Puerto Rican candidates who were approved exclusively by the U.S. rulers. In addition, in 1952 the U.S.-dominated United Nations was persuaded to approve a resolution that designated the case of Puerto Rico as an internal matter of the United States.

Faced with this new reality, anti-colonial activists had to find new tactics to expose the colonial reality that Puerto Rico still experienced. Albizu Campos put out a call to carry out any form of action that would highlight the criminal nature of the U.S. domination of Puerto Rico.

A group of members from the New York committee—Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Irvin Flores and Lolita Lebrón—secretly prepared to respond to Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos’s call. For many weeks and months the four patriots met to discuss the target, chosen with no regard for their own personal safety or survival.

With no mention of their plan to their families or friends, the four left for Washington, expecting never to return. Their only concern was to achieve the political objective in the action they were to take.

A bold and daring attack

Lolita Lebron among other Puerto Rican Nationalists after
the attack on the House of Representatives.

On the morning of March 1, 1954, members of the House of Representatives were meeting to discuss immigration policy and the government of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala—a government that the CIA overthrew in November of that year. The four patriots calmly entered the Capitol building, passing through the lobby and up the stairs to a balcony designated for visitors.

As the proceedings went on, the Nationalists unfurled the Puerto Rican flag. Lolita Lebrón then shouted, “QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!” Within seconds of brandishing and aiming their automatic weapons, the four revolutionaries opened fire on the U.S. Congress.

Gunfire broke out and bullets whistled through the air. Panic erupted in the chamber. Many congressional figures and their staff began screaming as they frantically pushed one another to get to the exit doors. Others avoided being shot by running to hide underneath tables and behind chairs

Before it ended, 30 rounds were fired. Five congressmen were wounded. All government buildings were shut down, and security throughout the city of Washington was increased.

The four Nationalists were immediately apprehended. The mass media launched a vicious campaign to demonize them and the entire Puerto Rican independence movement. The four were ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On October 26. 1977, protesters took over the Statue of Liberty to demand the release of
Lolita Lebron and all Puerto Rican Nationalist political prisoners.

As the Puerto Rican people mounted their struggle for the right of self-determination in Puerto Rico and in the United States during the upsurge of the 1960s and 1970s, more and more people raised the demand for the immediate release of Puerto Rican political prisoners. Thanks to the diplomatic work and solidarity of the Cuban revolutionary government, an international campaign galvanized widespread support for their release.

The political pressure paid off in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Irvin Flores as well as Oscar Collazo. All five were released from prison.

Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz invited the formerly imprisoned Nationalists to Cuba to receive that country’s
highest honor, Medal of the Order of the Bay of Pigs.

Lolita Lebron was arrested in 2001 for civil disobedience demanding the U.S. Navy out of Vieques.

The bold action taken by the four Puerto Rican patriots was an event that shocked the imperial-minded men of privilege — a shock that the U.S. ruling class has never forgotten. The colonizers of Puerto Rico never imagined that the people they victimized would dare such a bold act within the capital of the empire.

What Lolita, Rafael, Andrés and Irvin did on that day symbolizes not only the fury of the colonized Puerto Rican nation but of every oppressed people that strives for a world without imperialist oppression.

¡QUE VIVA

PUERTO RICO LIBRE!