Final Prison Term

The Final Imprisonment Of Don Pedro

As far as reasons given to the media for revoking Don Pedro’s pardon, El Imparcial published statements given by both Muñoz Marín and the Chief of Police Salvador T. Roig on March 8, 1954. According to Muñoz Marín, the reason was the ordering of the attack on Congress. According to Roig, however, the reason was the interview Don Pedro gave to journalist Teófilo Maldonado that was published unedited in El Imparcial. Whichever reason is true, many lawyers spoke very strongly against the revocation of the pardon on completely different grounds: the revocation order was signed by Muñoz Marín only, violating the constitutional requirement that it also be signed by a judge or court officer before the arrest can be made.

The trials for those who had been with Don Pedro during the March 6 raid on his home took place over ten days in May 1955. Around that same time, the first legal efforts on Don Pedro’s behalf took place: Francisco Hernández Vargas brought to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico the argument that Muñoz Marín had not received the required additional signatures needed to revoke Don Pedro’s pardon; African-American lawyer Conrad Lynn brought the same argument to Federal Court; in the beginning of 1957 Jorge Luis Landing again took the case to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. All efforts were opposed in the courts, and in Conrad Lynn’s case, the Federal Court did not even entertain his effort on grounds of “not having exhausted all the resources in the courts of the country.”

Arriving in prison with a delicate state of health, Don Pedro’s condition continued to worsen. Having to be hospitalized more than once during this prison term, the level of security at the hospital was no better than the actual prison. Security was so tight that police were pressured into giving the press an explanation for the situation, with Captain Gerardo Delgado saying, “Albizu’s room in the Presbyterian [Hospital] is considered an extension of the penitentiary and due to the lack of sufficient penal guards to set up surveillance there, the police are cooperating in the custody.”

The Conclusion Of Political Torture

Don Pedro’s first hospitalization during this prison term took place on March 29, 1956. In her biography of Don Pedro, author Marisa Rosado outlined the events leading up to his hospitalization as such: “Hospital personnel, following instructions from the Secretary of Justice, José Trías Monge, referred all calls from the press and the public to his office, promising to call the doctors to provide rigorous information. It was then that Dr. Rafael Troyano de los Ríos confirmed the news that Albizu had suffered a cerebral thrombosis. He explained that on Monday he had woke up with his right hand paralyzed, on Tuesday with his right leg and that he was developing paralysis throughout that side. On Wednesday morning he noticed that he had difficulty speaking and drowsiness, and he remained like this until Thursday March 29, the night he was hospitalized.” While this account from the doctor begins on Monday March 26, the press had published news of Don Pedro suffering a stroke on Sunday March 25, a full five days before he was transferred to the Presbyterian Hospital in Santurce for care.

Transferred back to a clinic in prison a few months later on June 15, while there, despite his difficulty speaking, Don Pedro informed a visiting doctor on August 29 that he was still being attacked by “nuclear rays.” On November 9 he suffered a relapse and was brought again to the Presbyterian Hospital. From this point on, Don Pedro was paralyzed on the right side of his body and unable to speak for the rest of his life. The political torture of Don Pedro had reached its ultimate conclusion short of death, and, as author Nelson Denis put it, “Albizu Campos had been silenced forever.” In July 1959 he developed jaundice as a result of hepatitis. In March 1960 he was denied parole despite a doctor strongly urging, due to his critical state, a conditional release in order to receive better treatment. In September 1964 a group of lawyers visited Don Pedro, still in the Presbyterian Hospital, to gain his permission in filing a second habeas corpus petition in pursuit of his release–no matter how close they got to Don Pedro, they could not hear him when he appeared to try speaking, and when they wrote on a piece of paper and presented it to him they were unable to see or hear any reaction.

Political efforts to silence Don Pedro were combined with the repression faced by his family and those close to him. The editor of El Imparcial and former President of the Nationalist Party, Antonio Ayuso Valdivieso, was turned away when trying to visit Don Pedro. Father Martín Bernstein, a close friend of Don Pedro who had hoped to give him the final Catholic sacrament of the last rites, was also turned away. Ana María Campos, Don Pedro’s cousin born to his mother’s sister, also had challenges in freely visiting him, though she was at one point able to receive permission to make regular visits. Authorities gave Don Pedro’s son, Pedro Albizu Meneses, issues entering and remaining in Puerto Rico from Cuba, and his wife Laura was outright denied a visa to travel to see him from her residence in Mexico.

International Outcry And Final Release

From the beginning of his imprisonment countless people throughout the world protested the situation of Don Pedro, including the press which published updates with regard to his health. The Cuban Federation of University Students wrote a statement representing 18,000 students holding the U.S. government responsible for Don Pedro’s condition and asking the UN to investigate his “political murder.” Upon completing the minimum length of his sentence on March 9, 1957, there was a significant effort to produce the legal action needed to gain his release. Despite these continued pleas for the release of Don Pedro, nothing happened until December 30, 1959 when Muñoz Marín issued a pardon ending his sentence for violation of the Gag Law. Not changing anything with regard to Don Pedro’s imprisonment, the pardon did not result in his release as it did not cover the criminal charges that he was also convicted and sentenced for.

In commemoration of his 70th birthday in September 1961, protests were organized in front of the Presbyterian Hospital for days, with simultaneous protests being held elsewhere in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. As a conclusion to the days of protest, a march to his home where he was arrested took place on September 12, ending with the reading of a proclamation declaring people of the world in favor of the liberation of Don Pedro and all other Puerto Rican nationalists, as well as the independence of Puerto Rico. The year of 1964 saw the governments of Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Spain write directly to Governor Muñoz Marín seeking the release of Don Pedro. Each of these governments feared and wanted to avoid the death of Don Pedro in prison.

With Don Pedro’s condition at its absolute worse, and Muñoz Marín about to be replaced as governor, the winner of the November 3, 1964 election, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, is said to have told Muñoz Marín the following: “You put him in jail, and if I were you, for history, I would release him before leaving the governorship, because I warn you, if you don’t pardon him, I will pardon him.” On November 15, 1964, after ten years either in prison or hospitalized under strict police custody, Don Pedro was issued a pardon by Muñoz Marín and freed. Over the period from 1936 to his release in 1964, a span of 28 years, he had spent a total of about 24 years in prison, in exile, or hospitalized.


References:

  • El Movimiento Libertador en la Historia de Puerto Rico, by Ramón Medina Ramírez (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1970).
  • Pedro Albizu Campos: Las Llamas de la Aurora- Acercamiento a su Biografía, by Marisa Rosado (Ediciones Puerto, 2008).
  • Sentencia Impuesta: 100 Años de Encarcelamientos por la Independencia de Puerto Rico, by Ché Paralitici (Ediciones Puerto, 2004).
  • War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror In America’s Colony, by Nelson A. Denis (Nation Books, 2015).

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