Events around U.S. mark 32nd anniversary of Oscar Lopez Rivera

ORLANDO, Fla. – Supporters of Puerto Rican independentist Oscar Lopez Rivera marked the 32nd anniversary of his imprisonment on May 28 with events in Orlando, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and other places.

They added their voices to the swelling chorus saying ¡Basta ya! (Enough is enough!) and demanding Libertad para Oscar (Freedom for Oscar), through a pardon from President Barack Obama, for Lopez, 70 – the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico.

The Central Florida event, a candle-light vigil, organized by the Orlando chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, was held at a church in east Orlando.

Lopez’s struggle and sacrifice make him an inspirational figure for many Puerto Ricans, who compare Lopez to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for resisting that nation’s apartheid regime. Many of his supporters believe that Lopez’s real “crime” was advocating for the independence of his homeland.

“Oscar’s not a criminal,” said Carlos Rodriguez, of the NBHRN (Orlando). “He’s just a guy who was talking about the freedom of Puerto Rico.”

“We have been held as a colony of the U.S. for 115 years,” said Rodriguez, adding that Lopez is “no different from Simon Bolivar and George Washington” and other leaders who helped liberate their nations from colonial powers.

Colonialism is “a monumental injustice according to the norms of civilized humanity and a crime under international law…that constitutes a violation of the charter of the United Nations…No nation…has the right to take over another nation,” said Lopez at his 1988 trial for conspiracy to escape from federal prison. Some believe that case resulted from “a plot conceived and carried out by government agents and informants/provocateurs.” Lopez was sentenced to an additional 15 years, to be served after the 55 years he had received earlier.

At this stage, Lopez’s only hope for freedom lies in a pardon from President Obama. His release enjoys wide support among Puerto Ricans, on and off the island, as well as from international dignitaries such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In a letter to President Obama, Tutu wrote that “after more than 30 years, Oscar Lopez Rivera is in prison for the crime of seditious conspiracy, conspiring to free his people from the shackles of imperial injustice. Now is the time for his immediate and unconditional release. In working for reconciliation and peace, we once again feel compelled to repeat the biblical call of Isaiah to set free those who are bound.”

“The release of … Oscar López Rivera, after 32 years in prison, is an issue directly related to the basic principles of social justice, humanity and compassion,” said Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla in a prepared statement. “Justice demands his release.” Garcia also raised the issue of a pardon for Lopez during a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder on June 10.

“The Puerto Rican People, no matter what party they are, they want Oscar Lopez back–back to his family,” said Rosario Martinez, of the NBHRN (Orlando). “He’s never had a chance in the last 32 years to have a Christmas, to go to the beach, to have a family reunion.”

Lopez is a decorated Vietnam veteran and former community activist working on issues of poverty, discrimination, education, and police brutality in Chicago’s Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

He was arrested in 1981, and convicted of seditious conspiracy, for allegedly being part of an underground group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN, in Spanish), which engaged in armed resistance in the 1970s for the independence of Puerto Rico. Lopez was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison. He was not convicted of participating in any acts that caused injury or death to any one.

Lopez spent 12 years in solitary confinement in conditions that the NBHRN says were “not unlike those at Guantanamo under which ‘enemy combatants,’ are held, conditions which the International Red Cross, among other human rights organizations, have called tantamount to torture.”

While in federal prison, Lopez has been denied permission to attend the funerals of his father, mother and sister, and has had his life endangered from substandard medical care. After his release from solitary confinement and transfer to a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., the abuses against Lopez have continued, which he detailed in this statement:

“Since I have been in the gulags all of my communication has been intercepted and monitored, including my legal mail. My family has been persecuted and criminalized….

“The last 14 years I have spent in this gulag, Terre Haute. And the harassment has not stopped. Several times my art materials have been confiscated or lost, art work destroyed, family visits stopped, and I still have to report to the jailers every two hours.

“In those 14 years, in spite of all the provocations and harassment, the jailers haven’t been able to accuse me of committing any infractions. But that doesn’t stop them from doing what they’ve been doing to me for the past 31 years. And I’m fairly certain the other political prisoners continue experiencing the same treatment and conditions.”

Those interested in learning more about Rivera’s life and struggle may want to check out Oscar Lopez Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance, a book released in February. It was edited by Lopez’s lawyer, Luis Nieves Falcon, and is based upon Lopez’s statements and letters he has written to Nieves and family members while in prison. The book’s introduction is by Archbishop Tutu.

Letters of support only (no money or printed materials) may be sent to Oscar Lopez Rivera:

Oscar Lopez Rivera # 87651-024
FCI Terre Haute

P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, Ind. 47808

Photo: People march for Oscar Lopez Rivera.   AP


Ben Markeson
Ben Markeson

Ben Markeson covers events in Florida for People's World. A native of Florida, Ben is an activist and a member of the Communist Party. Ben enjoys film, classical music and jazz, history, politics, comics and cats.


  • The Second Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2015

    We will be having our 2nd Oscar – Mandela Protest March on Monday, June 22, 2015. We will start marching peacefully at 9 AM from Hunter College on East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, to East 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. We will then go East (turning left) to end up at the Ralph Bunche Park on First Avenue (across from the United Nations).

    We will be at the park until 5 PM. We will be giving out flyers and talking to people about who Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is. We will also be educating the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the government of the United States (US).

    Most people don’t know that every year, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, the United Nations holds its hearing about the decolonization of Puerto Rico. The petitioners will usually join our protest after this meeting.

    The UN determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Since then, the UN has issued 33 resolutions asking for the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. The US government has ignored these resolutions. What kind of democracy is that?

    The US government tries to keep these hearings a secret. What we are trying to do is to get them out of the closet. The UN is in its 3rd decade trying to make the world colony-free. Please help us!

    Most people also don’t know that the United States government takes out 14 times more money than what it invests in Puerto Rico. But, that is what colonies are for!

    This savage exploitation impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to provide opportunities for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans living away from Puerto Rico than in their homeland.

    Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 34 years for his struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico. Since colonialism is an international crime, international law gives Oscar the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize his homeland. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years for doing the same thing as Oscar. This is why we say, Oscar López Rivera is our Nelson Mandela!

    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization invites the public to be part of the tsunami of people that will be necessary to make the US government comply with the UN resolutions. These annual protests in Puerto Rico and at the UN are absolutely necessary, because, those who maintain colonies, don’t believe in justice for all!

    Jose M Lopez Sierra,

  • ¿Deben los criminales estar a cargo de corregir los daños que hicieron?

    Los puertorriqueños votan en las elecciones de cada 4 años a un 80% de participación. Puerto Rico ha sido una colonia del gobierno de Estados Unidos (EEUU) por los últimos 116 años. Si las decisiones para Puerto Rico se toman en Washington DC, ¿para qué son las elecciones? Estas elecciones son para engañar al mundo que Puerto Rico es una democracia.

    La Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) declaró el colonialismo un crimen en contra de la humanidad en el 1960. La ONU le ha pedido 33 veces al gobierno de Estados Unidos que descolonice inmediatamente a Puerto Rico. EEUU ha ignorado estas peticiones. EEUU dice que la relación política entre Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos es un asunto domestico que no le compete a la ONU.

    Para aparentar que el gobierno de EEUU quiere descolonizar a Puerto Rico, EEUU favorece el uso de plebiscitos para saber lo que quiere los puertorriqueños. ¿No te parece eso suena inocente y democrático? ¿Cuál es el problema?

    Para empezar, la comunidad internacional ya tomó juicio y determinó que el colonialismo es ilegal. Por lo tanto, tener como opción en un plebiscito que Puerto Rico continúe siendo una colonia no es posible. Tampoco no es posible tener como una opción que Puerto Rico sea un estado de Estados Unidos. La razón tiene que ver con el comienzo de este artículo. Para tener elecciones libre, el país tiene que ser libre. Para que estos plebiscitos tengan validez internacional, Puerto Rico tiene que ser un país independiente primero.

    Lo que la gente tiene que entender es que Puerto Rico es colonia de EEUU porque el gobierno de EEUU lo quiere así. Por eso ha usado el terrorismo de estado para mantenerla. Por eso no quiere excarcelar al prisionero político de 33 años Oscar López Rivera. Y por eso es que es ridículo pensar que la descolonización de Puerto Rico es un asunto interno de EEUU, y que la ONU no tenga jurisdicción en la misma. ¡Si nosotros dejamos que el gobierno de Estados Unidos descolonice a Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico será colonia de EEUU para siempre!

    José M López Sierra

  • Dear Partner,

    After the approval of the 33rd United Nations’ resolution by consensus on June 23, 2014 asking the United States (US) to immediately decolonize of Puerto Rico, we should work together to force the United States government to comply with it.

    The facts that the United States government has maintained Puerto Rico as its colony for 116 years, has had Oscar López Rivera in prison for 33 years for fighting for Puerto Rico decolonization, and has ignored 33 UN resolutions to decolonize Puerto Rico, confirm that the US government has no intentions of ever decolonizing Puerto Rico. Therefore, we need to form a tsunami of people to force the US to comply with the 33 resolutions.

    We should peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until we achieve our goal. The first one will be a march up to the US Courthouse in Puerto Rico on the Abolition of Slavery Day on March 22. The second will be another march in Puerto Rico on a day before the UN’s Puerto Rico decolonization hearing. The third one will be a protest in New York City on the same day the UN holds its Puerto Rico decolonization hearing.

    These 3 protests are indispensable, because those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

    José M López Sierra
    Comité Timón del Pueblo
    United Partners for the Decolonization of Puerto Rico

  • Dear Partner,

    Now that the First Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico is history, we can now begin to work on making an even bigger success of The First Oscar Mandela Protest in New York City. This year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City a week before our protest will be dedicated to our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

    On Monday, June 23, 2014, the United Nations (UN) will be discussing again Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States. The UN is in its third decade trying to eradicate colonialism from the world, because of the belief that it constitutes a threat to world peace. Since this date is a week later than usual, our committee decided to have 2 protests this year.

    On the Monday, June 16, 2014, the day after Fathers’ Day, we will have our first protest in the park across from the UN on 46th Street and First Avenue from 8 AM to 5 PM to show the world that we too believe that colonialism is a crime against humanity. On the same day of the hearing, Monday June 23, we will have the second one. We will have a press conference in New York City to inform the public of the latest details of these event. We will need as many people at the protest as possible to make the government of the United States (US) comply with the 32 UN resolutions asking the US to decolonize immediately Puerto Rico. After this many resolutions, it is obvious that the US does not want to.

    President Obama recently showed the government of the United States’ hypocrisy about human rights. In his memorial ceremony speech, he had only praise for Nelson Mandela. He, however, has refused, despite the enormous pressure from Puerto Rico and the rest of the world, to release from prison Oscar López Rivera who is doing exactly what Mandela did. Oscar has already spent 6 more years in prison than the 27 that Mandela served. The US is happy when other countries decolonize their colonies, but the US wants to keep hers. What kind of democracy is this? Obviously, those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

    Please tell your friends about this important protest for Oscar López Rivera’s release from prison, and to achieve what he has spent his life on, the decolonization of Puerto Rico.

    We will have a sheet of paper so that whoever who wants to get involved in the planning of this yearly permanent event in New York City can provide us with your contact information. If you wish, you can also email me right now at

    We look forward to greeting old and new partners in our struggle to provide real justice for all!

    José M López Sierra
    Because, rights are not requested, they are demanded!


  • Saludos Compañeros,

    Únete a La Primera Protesta Pacífica Oscar – Mandela en Puerto Rico el sábado 22 de marzo de 2014, en el Día de la Abolición de la Esclavitud, para protestar por la descolonización de Puerto Rico y la excarcelación de nuestro preso político Oscar López Rivera. Éste es el día perfecto para protestar sobre la esclavitud de los puertorriqueños por el gobierno de Estados Unidos.

    Marcharemos a las 2 PM desde la Estación Avenida Roosevelt del Tren Urbano hasta el Tribunal de Estados Unidos en Puerto Rico en la Calle Chardón de Hato Rey.

    Las personas que pertenecen a grupos pueden llevar sus banderas y pancartas. ¡Queremos que esta protesta sea de todos los que creemos que el colonialismo es un crimen en contra de la humanidad y una amenaza a la paz mundial. ¡Necesitamos tener una gran cantidad de gentes porque, los que practican o aceptan el colonialismo no creen en la justicia para todos!

    Un abrazo,

  • Saludos Compañeros,

    El sábado, 23 de noviembre de 2013 en Puerto Rico, habrá una gran marcha pacífica para la excarcelación de nuestro patriota y preso político Oscar López Rivera. Para más información, oprima el enlace

    Un abrazo,

  • Saludos Compañeros,

    Tenemos que trabajar juntos para descolonizar a Puerto Rico y excarcelar a Oscar López Rivera. ¡Únete a 2 protestas pacíficas hasta descolonizar a Puerto Rico!

    Un abrazo,


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