One morning last week, a green sedan rolled into the palm-shaded cobblestone square before San Juan's Fortaleza, the 300-year-old residence of Governor Luis Mufioz Marin. Out of the car burst six members of Puerto Rico's desperate little Nationalist Party. Armed with pistols, rifles and a machine gun, they sprinted for the palace entrance. Yelling "Viva Puerto Rico libre," one Nationalist got off a wild submachine-gun burst. From the arcade, from parapets, from rooftops, guards poured fire down on the attackers.

Dust and chips flew as bullets rattled off the old Spanish walls. One attacker got as far as the portico....

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