Chicago Sun-Times
September 11, 1999

FALN 11 go free


                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 happy
                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, plan to
                live in Chicago but the nine others were bound for Puerto Rico.

                Rodriguez told reporters he accepted clemency mostly to be with his family. Torres
                also has family in Chicago, including an ailing husband.

                "We decided to take the offer because we knew that our people will always be
                persecuted and repressed by the police," Torres said.

                Luis Rosa of Chicago said he cannot stay here and live a normal life. Jimenez said
                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 barred
                from associating with one another.

                The setting was a memorial garden for Puerto Rican independence fighter Pedro
                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," said Luz
                Santiago, 35, an auto mechanic.

                Torres and Rodriguez were among four FALN members charged with building and
                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 at
                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 Chagall
                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 through
                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 surgery to
                have their eardrums replaced, and she still has hearing problems.

                Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who played a crucial role in winning the prisoners'
                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
                overwhelmingly Thursday.