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Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, was in born on September 1891 (others say 1893), in Ponce, Puerto Rico, son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos. He studied chemistry at Ohio University, law in Vermont and Harvard Law Schools, and served the US Army during World War I (1914-1918). Albizu Campos was the most prominent of all Puerto Rican leaders who struggled for the independence of Puerto Rico. He had the support of many Puerto Ricans for the liberation of Puerto Rico and he struggled with his people to prevent colonialism, although one of the greatest problems he faced in separating Puerto Rico from the United States was the fact that Puerto Ricans were too dependent on the US. They felt Puerto Rico could not survive without the US. Before being elected president of the Nationalists Party of Puerto Rico, Dr. Albizu Campos traveled throughout Latin America to get the support of all these countries. Of these, he went to Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Peru. Dr. Albizu Campos felt that the US, which controlled the media, suppressed the struggle and it would be the only way to gain international support. When he returned from Latin America in 1930, he immediately became the new president of the Nationalist Party. Under the leadership of Albizu Campos, the nationalist party of Puerto Rico became a major force in the fight for independence.

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April 16, 1936. Albizu Campos rallying a crowd during Jose De Diego's birthday.

Albizu Campos was in and out of U.S. prisons for 25 years. In 1936 he was charged and condemned, with other members of the Nationalist Party, for trying to overthrow the government, after the Río Piedras Masacre on Oct. 24 1925, the death of Coronel Riggs on February 23 1936, and the later deaths of Hiram Rosado and Elías Beauchamp. During the appeal of this case the Ponce Masacre occurs on March 21, 1937 and the Nationalists were transported to Atlanta that same year. In 1947 Albizu returns to Puerto Rico and is believed to begin preparing, along with other members of the Nationalist Party, for an armed struggle against the proposed plans to change Puerto Rico into a commonwealth.

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December 15, 1947. Albizu coming from serving 10 years in prison at Atlanta, GA.
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December 16, 1947. Albizu Campos during a press conference.

Three days after two Puerto Ricans, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, tried to invade Blair House and kill president Harry S. Truman, killed Secret Service guard Leslie Coffelt and wounded another guard, Donald Birdzell, on October 30 1950, Albizu Campos was arrested for violating Law 53 and other colonial laws. He was found guilty of sedicious conspiracy, and sentenced to a total of 72 years in La Princesa Penitentiary in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Police stenographers transcribed 12 of his public speeches given between 1948 and 1950 as proof of the charges of seditious conspiracy leveled against him.

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July 31, 1936. On his way to his first 10 years of prison.

While in prison, Albizu repeatedly charged that he was the subject of human radiation experiments. During this time, the US was allegedly experimenting with radiation in the Princesa prison. Albizu Campos was believed to be one of the unfortunate prisoners to be experimented upon, without consent or warning for this radiation. It is said that he had his first radiation attack on February 21, 1951, which left him unconscious, and that another attack occurred on May 9, 1951. It is also claimed from then on, between 1951 and 1953, he suffered six to eight new radiation attacks, and that he soon began to protect his head and body with wet towels because of the intense heat in his body as a result of the radiation. He accused his captors of trying to kill him and that eventually he would experience a heart attack or a stroke. The US government allegedly suggested a story saying that Albizu was insane and that this would truly discredit his role as a national leader.

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Pedro Albizu Campos in the La Princesa Penitentiary.

Soon, his lawyers filed protests about his condition and the radiation. Albizu's health deteriorated and it is said that he received no medical attention, was mistreated and abandoned to die. Many people and lawyers tried to get Pedro Albizu Campos free but were unsuccessful. The only relief received for Albizu was allegedly to get some medical assistance, where he was put in a hospital as a prisoner but then released and put back in prison. Many doctors were able to examine Albizu and test for any signs of radiation. The President of the Cuban Cancer Association, Dr. Orlando Damuy, traveled to PR to examine him. The burns on his body were reported by Dr. Damuy, where he diagnosed that they were the cause of intense radiation. It is said when they placed a metal paper clip with a film on Albizu's skin, the clip was radiated into the film. On Sunday, March 25, 1956, Albizu suffered a stroke. It is also said he did not receive any medical attention for 5 days and instead suffered.

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Albizu's radiated body while in prison

He was pardoned in 1953 by Luis Muñoz Marin, governor of Puerto Rico, but the pardon was revoked due another attempt against the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954. On November 15, 1964 Albizu was agained pardoned by Muñoz Marin.

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Portrait of Albizu by Fran Cervoni

Pedro Albizu Campos finally died on April 21, 1965. More than 75,000 Puerto Ricans carried the remains of his body to the Old San Juan Cemetery. Millions of Latinos around the world will always remember him as the last and best American liberator. On June 11, 2000, the 5th Anniversary of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and 42nd Anniversary of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City were dedicated to Don Pedro Albizu Campos.

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Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos
In Memoriam 1891-1965


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