Puerto Rican Nationalists
Puerto Rican Nationalists
"Puerto Rican Terrorists Kill 4 in Wall Street Blast"
Date: January 25, 1975
Source: The Associated Press
About the Photographer: The Associated Press is an international wire service that provides news and photographs to news agencies around the world.
At about 1:25 p.m. (New York local time) on January 24, 1975, Puerto Rican nationalists detonated a bomb in the inside hallway of the nineteenth-century annex to historic Fraunces Tavern and the adjacent Anglers Club. The blast—which occurred on the corner of Pearl and Water Streets in the Wall Street financial district of lower Manhattan in New York City (NYC)—caused extensive damage, while killing four people and injuring more than sixty others. At the time, the death toll in the explosion was the highest of any political bombings in New York City.
The Puerto Rican nationalist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) [Armed Forces of National Liberation] claimed responsibility for the explosion via telephone calls to both United Press International and The Associated Press. The callers also led NYC police to their "Communique No. 3"; a note that stated the explosion was in response to the January 11, 1975 bombing allegedly ordered by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which killed two workers who supported Puerto Rican independence and injured eleven other people during a rally in the city of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The note also demanded the release of five Puerto Rican nationalists who were being held in prison for the 1950 attempted assassination of President Harry Truman, and the 1954 wounding of five U.S. Congress members at the House of Representatives.
The Puerto Rican nationalist-terrorist group FALN was founded in 1974 by Filiberto Inocencio Ojeda Rios, a Puerto Rican agent of Cuban intelligence who founded many of Puerto Rico's terrorist organizations. FALN, which advocates the complete independence for Puerto Rico (through liberation from the United States), had previously been linked to other bomb explosions in New York City. According to many counterterrorism experts, the group performed its terrorist acts with the help of Cuban intelligence agents. A U.S. Senate subcommittee dealing with terrorism warned of the Cuban connection in 1975 and a 1983 FBI investigation documented the day-to-day connection between FALN and the country of Cuba. Puerto Rican nationalists, including FALN, have consistently denied involvement with Cuba.
Investigation by detectives of the New York City police department and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) decided that a quantity of high concentrated explosive material (with the explosive power of about ten sticks of dynamite) had been detonated with a short-fused timing device. They also found fragments of a propane tank that was similar to the ones used in two previous FALN explosions for which the group claimed responsibility.
New York (AP)— The explosion of a powerful fragmentation bomb that set a Wall street skyscraper quivering and damaged historic Fraunces Tavern killed four persons and injured at least 42 others.
A Puerto Rican nationalist group that has been linked with other terrorism here claimed responsibility for the blast that roared through the canyons of the crowded financial district.
The bomb had been planted in the Anglers and Tarpon Club adjacent to the tavern. The dead, including one man who was decapitated, apparently were lunchtime patrons at the club.
Built in 1719, Fraunces Tavern was the scene on Dec. 4, 1783, of George Washington's farewell address to the officers who served under him in the Revolutionary War. It is about 400 yards from the New York Stock Exchange.
The blast Friday afternoon sent glass shards flying into the street. Diners in the 60th floor cafeteria of the nearby Chase Manhattan Bank building said the structure shook.
"People were writhing on the sidewalk—we didn't know if they had been blown out of the building or if they were passersby," said Fire Lt. Thomas Regan, one of the first rescuers to arrive.
Fireman Charles Anderson described the blast scene as "utter havoc" with "people lying all over the place, many of them mumbling in shock . . . some buried under debris."
"It was like an earthquake," said the owner of a nearby grocery. Fifteen minutes after the explosion, an unidentified telephone caller told the Associated Press it was the work of FALN, a band of nationalist Puerto Rican terrorists. FALN stands for Fuerzas Armadas de Liberation National Puertorrquena (Armed Forces of the Puerto Rican Nation).
The group has claimed responsibility for other bomb explosions in the metropolitan area, but previous blasts caused no fatalities.
Later, police recovered a note in which the FALN claimed the latest bombing was in retaliation for the "CIA-ordered" murder of two young Puerto Ricans.
Authorities in Puerto Rico said a bomb went off Jan. 11 in a Mayaquez restaurant, killing two men and wounding 11 persons. The restaurant was in walking distance of a Puerto Rican Socialist party rally scheduled for later that evening.
Doctors said nails and other pieces of metal were found in the bodies of those who died in Friday's blast as well as in some of the injured.
One of the four dead, James Gezork, 32, of Wilmington, Del., died on an operating table at Beekman-Downtown Hospital Friday night.
The others killed were identified by police as Frank T. Conner, 30, of Fair Lawn, N.J.; Harold Sherbourne, 66, of Pine Orchard, Conn.; and Alejambro Berger of Philadelphia.
Mayor Abraham D. Beame rushed to the explosion scene from nearby City Hall and denounced the bombing as a "senseless act of terror which defies all reason and decency."
"It was a hell of a way to spend a Friday afternoon," said Richard Ross, 59, who was dining at the Anglers Club but escaped injury. "I'm afraid the fellow next to me was killed."
Over a period from 1974 to 1983, members of FALN—with ties to Cuban intelligence networks—claimed responsibility for about 130 bombings in the United States that claimed six lives and injured numerous others. Some of these bombings included the January 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern; the four April 1975 bombings of the New York Life Insurance Company, the Bankers Trust Company, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and the Blimpie Base restaurant; the 1977 bombing of the Mobil Oil building; and the 1983 bombing of the headquarters of the New York Police Department (all in New York City); and the June 1979 bombing of the Shubert Theatre; the 1979 bombing of the Naval Armory; and the 1979 bombing of the Cook County building (all in Chicago or downstate Illinois).
The bombing of the Fraunces Tavern was the significant point for Puerto Rican terrorism because it indicated to U.S. authorities a beginning of a new wave of terrorism for Puerto Rican separatists. Authorities considered the previous wave of Puerto Rican terrorist attacks as not intended to kill people, since bombs were set off in vacant buildings and occupants of buildings were warned before an impending explosion. The new wave of terrorists, on the other hand, was seen by law enforcement officials as an aggressive attempt to kill people in order to publicize their political goals and philosophy.
In the Fraunces Tavern bombing, two Hispanic men were seen running from the annex moments before the explosion. Although the police suspected they were members of FALN—and the investigation centered on these two men—no one was ever prosecuted for the bombing of the Fraunces Tavern, the killing of four people, and the injuring of many others. During this time, however, many members of FALN were caught and convicted by U.S. authorities of various crimes within the United States. After serving their prison sentences, most returned to Puerto Rico.
Contemporary Puerto Rican terrorism began during the mid-1960s due to discontent with the widening economic divide among its citizens and strengthened by a desire for independence from the United States. By the 1980s, twenty years later, the country's economic stability had gone from good to poor, increasing the discontent amongst Puerto Rico's poor. This situation led to heightened terrorist activities on the island and in the United States.
During this time, Cuba remained a key player between Puerto Rico and the United States as it pursued its own agenda for Puerto Rico: the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States and increased influence over the strategically positioned island in the Caribbean. The United States remained equally interested in Puerto Rico—its associated commonwealth—realizing that (as of 1981) 60% of all imported oil to the United States was shipped through the Caribbean, and that large amounts of foreign military equipment and personnel often traveled by water near Puerto Rico on their way to Central and South America and other parts of the world.
As a result, the United States continued to counter extremist Puerto Rican terrorist activities in the United States and Puerto Rico, where many U.S. military facilities and personnel are located. By the early 1980s, many of the Puerto Rican terrorist groups, including FALN, had combined forces for a united opposition against the United States. Their combined experience and expertise gave them a greater level of precision and efficiency in carrying out their goals, although the bombing of the historic Fraunces Tavern in January, 1975, continues to be FALN's most notorious and deadly act of terrorism.
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Lidin, Harold J. History of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. Puerto Rico: Hato Ray, 1981.
Zwickel, Jean Wiley. Voices for Independence: In the Spirit of Valor and Sacrifice. Pittsburg, CA: White Star Press, 1988.
McFadden, Robert D. "4 Killed, 44 Injured in Fraunces Tavern Explosion." The New York Times. January 25, 1975.
Prial, Frank J. "Bombers Called Intent on Killing." The New York Times. January 25, 1975.
James, Daniel. Latino Studies Resources, Indiana University. "Puerto Rican Terrorists Also Threaten Reagan Assassination." <http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/puertorico/Daniel-james.htm> (accessed June 15, 2005).