Rally seeks freedom for Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera


ORLANDO, Fla. - Chants of "Obama, Obama! / Bring Oscar Home!" and "What Do We Want? Freedom for Oscar! / When Do We Want It? Now!" filled the streets here as community activists here came together to say "Basta ya!" (enough is enough) and demand the release of Puerto Rican independentista Oscar Lopez Rivera. (See video below.) The May 29 march and rally at Orlando City Hall was organized by the local chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network.

Lopez is the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico. The Central Florida event was part of a month of activities around the country to build support for a presidential pardon for Lopez, who has spent 31 years in federal custody.

The NBHRN works for the decontamination of former U.S. Navy facilities on the island of Vieques, the release of all Puerto Rican political prisoners, and an end to political repression and criminalization of progressive forces in the Puerto Rican community.

Many of the protesters wore T-shirts with "Free Oscar" on the back and prison bars on the front. Some also wore handcuffs and held signs bearing a number from 1 to 31 to symbolize Lopez's incarceration.

Angel Negron, of the Orlando NBHRN, read a statement of solidarity from Lopez.
"The support I've received has been a fountain of strength that has helped me face and deal with the difficult challenges I've experienced in prison ... and to remain morally and spiritually strong to continue struggling and resisting," Lopez wrote.

During those years, "many radical changes" have occurred, wrote Lopez, such as the election of left-wing governments in several Latin American nations and the successful campaign by the Puerto Rican people that forced the Navy to leave Vieques. However, he noted that independence for the island, which has been a U.S. colony since 1898, remains an elusive goal.

"Unfortunately, the most important change Puerto Ricans need has not taken place because colonialism seems to be more entrenched now than ever," he wrote.

Lopez urged his compatriots to focus on the problems they can resolve, such as obesity among people on the island and in the Puerto Rican diaspora, using the resources and means that they have available.

"Problems should not intimidate or scare us, they should produce ideas in our heads, and challenge us to find solutions," he wrote. "Finding solutions to problems gives us confidence and helps us transcend our colonized mentality. That transcendence gets us closer to our goal of achieving an independent and sovereign nation and a better and more just world..."

For some Puerto Rican activists, Lopez's struggle and sacrifice make him an inspirational figure, a source of national pride whom some compare to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his resistance to that nation's apartheid regime.

Lopez "has taught me to learn more about my culture. He has taught me to learn the history of Puerto Rico," said Negron. "Every time I hear his name, I take it with so much pride."

Lopez, 69, was born in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, and moved to Chicago when he was a teenager. In the 1960s he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star. After returning home, he became a community activist, working on issues of poverty, discrimination, education and police brutality in Chicago's Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

According to the NBHRN, Lopez "was arrested in 1981, accused of being a member of a clandestine force seeking independence for Puerto Rico, and sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy. He was not accused or convicted of causing harm or taking a life.

"In 1988, as the result of a government-made conspiracy to escape, he was given an additional 15 years."

"From 1986 to 1998, he was held in the most super maximum security prisons in the federal prison system," says the NBHRN, "in conditions 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."

Zoraida Rios-Andino, vice chair of the Central Florida chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, said her organization had formed to challenge the lack of Puerto Rican representation on local elected bodies and other issues facing the Borinquen community.

"I say we bring Oscar's message here to Orlando, to Orange County," said Rios-Andino. "Let's continue to fight, to struggle, to bring justice to all our Puerto Rican and Latino brothers and sisters, but mostly stay together so that Oscar finally can be free."

Other groups participating included Central Florida Jobs With Justice, the Black, Latino and Puerto Rican Alliance for Justice, and Frente Unido 436. State Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, also spoke.

Lopez's only hope for freedom lies in a pardon from President Obama. His release enjoys wide support in Puerto Rico, not only from pro-independence forces, but from the Senate and House, the Bar Association, former governors, unions, religious denominations, and community activists, among other sectors. Lopez also has growing support among Puerto Rican and other Latino communities in the U.S.

At his first federal parole hearing in 2011, Lopez was denied the right to call witnesses and to have legal observers and family members present, while the government called 11 witnesses who sought to implicate Lopez in acts in which he had no involvement. His next parole hearing will not be until 2027, when he will be 84.

Letters of support (no money or printed materials) may be sent to:
Oscar Lopez Rivera #87651-024
FCI Terre Haute
PO Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808

Video of the May 23 march:

Video by T.J. McCarthy IV / 4D Pictures.

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  • Saludos Compañero,

    Ya que tuvimos un gran éxito con nuestra Primera Marcha Oscar – Mandela en Puerto Rico, ahora podemos esperar un éxito aún mayor en nuestra Primera Protesta Oscar – Mandela en Nueva York. Este año, la parada puertorriqueña en Nueva York, celebrada una semana antes que nuestra protesta, honrará a nuestro preso político Oscar López Rivera.

    El lunes 23 de junio de 2014, la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) estará nuevamente discutiendo el caso colonial de Puerto Rico. La ONU está en su tercera década tratando de erradicar del mundo el colonialismo por entender que la misma constituye una amenaza a la paz mundial. Como esta fecha es una semana después que lo usual, nuestro comité decidió hacer 2 protestas este año.

    El lunes 16 de junio de 2014, el día después del Día de los Padres, nosotros tendremos nuestra primera protesta pacífica de 8 AM a 6 PM a cruzar la Primera Avenida de la ONU de la Calle 46. Nuestra segunda protesta pacífica será en el mismo día de la vista, el lunes siguiente, 23 de junio. Tendremos una conferencia de prensa en Nueva York una semana antes para dar los últimos detales sobre estos eventos. Queremos demostrarle al mundo que nosotros también creemos que el colonialismo es un crimen en contra de la humanidad. Necesitamos una gran cantidad de gente en estas protestas para obligar al gobierno de Estados Unidos (EEUU) a cumplir con las 32 resoluciones de la ONU pidiéndole que inmediatamente descolonice a Puerto Rico. Después de tantas resoluciones, es obvio que EEUU no quiere hacerlo.

    El Presidente Obama recientemente demostró la hipocresía del gobierno de Estados Unidos en relación a los derechos humanos. En la ceremonia de recordación a Nelson Mandela, Obama solo tuvo palabras de gran admiración por él. Sin embargo, Obama se ha negado, bajo una tremenda presión de Puerto Rico e internacional, a excarcelar a Oscar que está haciendo exactamente lo que hizo Mandela. Oscar ya ha estado 6 años más encarcelado que los 27 de Mandela. Estados Unidos está contento cuando otros países descolonizan a sus colonias pero no quiere descolonizar las suya. ¿Qué tipo de democracia es ésta? Obviamente, los que practican el colonialismo no creen en la justicia para todos.

    Por favor, dígale a sus amigos sobre estas protestas para excarcela a Oscar, y lograr la meta que lo llevó a la prisión, la descolonización de Puerto Rico. Tendremos una hoja para que todo aquel que quiera ser parte de la organización de esta protesta anual y permanente nos pueda dar su información de contacto. Si deseas, puede hacerlo ahora a través de jlop28vislophis@yahoo.com.

    ¡Nos gustaría poder saludar a viejos compañeros y conocer muchos nuevos en nuestra lucha por lograr una verdadera justicia para todos!

    Un abrazo fraternal,
    José M López Sierra
    ¡Porque los derechos no se piden, se exigen!

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 05/30/2014 6:53am (2 months ago)

  • Dear Partners,

    Join The First Oscar – Mandela Protest in Puerto Rico on Saturday, March 22, 2014, on the Abolition of Slavery Day, to peacefully protest for the decolonization of Puerto Rico and the release of our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. It is the perfect day to protest the enslavement of Puerto Rico by the government of United States.

    We will march from the Roosevelt Avenue Urban Train Station at 2 PM to the United States Court in Puerto Rico on Chardón Street in Hato Rey.

    If you belong to any particular group, feel free to bring your flags and signs to our protest. We want it to be a collective effort involving everyone who believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity and a threat to world peace. We need to have as many people as possible, because those who practice or accept colonialism, don’t believe in justice for all!

    Un abrazo,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 01/13/2014 7:18am (6 months ago)

  • Thank you for this article and for posting his address. I looked and looked and even many of the sites dedicated to him, did not list an address to write to Oscar Lopez Rivera. Thanks for including that.

    Posted by Babette Grunow, 12/22/2013 6:35pm (7 months ago)

  • 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 abajo.

    Un abrazo,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 10/16/2013 8:34am (9 months ago)

  • 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,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 09/17/2013 1:53pm (10 months ago)

  • Greetings,

    We need to work together to decolonize Puerto Rico and free Oscar López Rivera. Join 2 peaceful protests until it is accomplished!

    Un abrazo,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 08/09/2013 5:26pm (12 months ago)

  • Saludos,

    Tenemos que trabajar juntos para descolonizar a Puerto Rico y excarcelar a Oscar Lopez Rivera.

    Habra una protesta pacifica en las afueras de la ONU este 17 de junio 2013. Te esperamos!

    Un abrazo!


    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 06/15/2013 6:33am (1 year ago)

  • Dear Partner,


    Those who accept colonialism do not believe in justice for all! Now that we know that the political parties will not solve this problem, I invite you to join the non-violent protest to demand that the United States (US) decolonize Puerto Rico (PR) immediately. It will be on Monday, June 17, 2013 from 8 AM to 5 PM outside the United Nations (UN) visitor’s entrance located on 46th Street and First Avenue in New York City.

    The UN has determined that colonialism is a crime against humanity in 1960 under Resolution 1514 (XV). That’s why the UN celebrates every year a hearing about Puerto Rico decolonization. Every year the UN puts forth a resolution asking the US to decolonize PR. Despite 30 of these resolutions, PR is still the oldest and most populated colony in the world! It is obvious by now that the US is not going to decolonize PR just because the UN asks.

    Through education, we must create a domestic and international solidarity with this cause to pressure the US to do what historically she has refused to do. This is why we need everyone who also believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity to join the protest to demand compliance to international law!

    Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US for 114 years. The US’ intention is to keep PR a colony forever unless we do something about it. It is important to note that: democracy isn’t what a government does. Democracy is what people do!
    President John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” These ideas, of course, are the reasons why the United Nations was created after World War II.

    It is up to us to defend the fundamental human rights that promote world peace. The tragedy of doing nothing is that we will have the kind of government that we deserve!


    José M. López Sierra

    For more information:
    Compañeros Unidos para la Descolonización de Puerto Rico

    Posted by Jose Lopez, 10/24/2012 5:04pm (2 years ago)

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