FALN 11 go free
BY ANA MENDIETA AND LYNN SWEET STAFF REPORTERS
Amid congressional uproar over the release of 11 Puerto Rican nationalists,
Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood prepared a hero's welcome Friday night
for four of them.
"For 20 years I have dreamt of this moment. You don't know how proud and
I feel right now," Ricardo Jimenez told a crowd of 300 people. "Having been 19 1/2
years in prison, arriving at this celebration touches my heart."
Jimenez, en route to Puerto Rico, added: "This struggle does not end here.
. . . Long
live Puerto Rican independence."
Two of the released prisoners, Alejandrina Torres and Alberto Rodriguez,
live in Chicago but the nine others were bound for Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez told reporters he accepted clemency mostly to be with his family.
also has family in Chicago, including an ailing husband.
"We decided to take the offer because we knew that our people will always
persecuted and repressed by the police," Torres said.
Luis Rosa of Chicago said he cannot stay here and live a normal life. Jimenez
he took the offer because he believed he could do more for the cause of Puerto
Rican independence outside of prison.
The prisoners made separate appearances because, as parolees, they are
from associating with one another.
The setting was a memorial garden for Puerto Rican independence fighter
Albizu Campos. It was festooned with Puerto Rican flags and signs proclaiming
"Welcome Patriots" in Spanish. Puerto Rican and Mexican mariachi bands played
from a stage.
"I know they know they made a mistake and will try to live a new life,"
Santiago, 35, an auto mechanic.
Torres and Rodriguez were among four FALN members charged with building
planting explosive and incendiary devices at banks, stores and government buildings
in Chicago between 1975 and 1979, according to court records.
One of those bombings injured Ricardo Schwarz, now a 57-year-old scientist
Los Alamos National Laboratory, and his wife, Fanny, on June 7, 1976.
The couple had just moved to Chicago. Schwarz was showing his wife the
mural in front of the First National Bank, at Monroe and Dearborn, when a bomb
exploded inside a trash can.
"I lost my hearing and also lost my voice because a piece of shrapnel went
my vocal cords. I was choking in my own blood," Schwarz said.
He didn't recover his voice for months. Both he and his wife underwent
have their eardrums replaced, and she still has hearing problems.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who played a crucial role in winning the
release, planned to meet privately with Torres and Rodriguez this weekend. He said
he wanted to help them settle in Chicago and get jobs.
The Senate on Monday takes up a resolution denouncing President Clinton's
clemency offer, with tougher language than in a House condemnation that passed