Oscar López Rivera, longest-held Puerto Rican independence fighter, to go free May 17
Screenshot from video. | Democracy Now

Oscar will be freed! Oscar López Rivera, the Puerto Rican political prisoner who has served the most years in prison for fighting for his country’s independence, had his sentence commuted by President Barack Obama January 17, 2017.

The United States government announced Tuesday the release of López Rivera, who has been imprisoned in the U.S. for 36 years for his struggle to free Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule.

López Rivera’s sentence will now expire on May 17, according to a White House source, consulted by the EFE news agency.

Oscar’s fight

López Rivera, born in Puerto Rico in 1943, is an independence leader in his native country. Upon returning to Chicago after serving in the Vietnam War, he joined the struggle for the rights of the Puerto Rican people and participated in acts of civil disobedience and other actions.

In 1976 he joined the clandestine fight for the independence of Puerto Rico as a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation. In 1981 he was captured by the FBI accused of “conspiracy” and for his militancy in the FALN.

At the time of his capture, he proclaimed himself a prisoner of war, protected in the first protocol of the Geneva Convention of 1949. The protocol protects López Rivera for being a person arrested in conflict against colonial occupation.

The U.S. did not recognize the demand of López Rivera and sentenced him to 55 years in prison, after an alleged attempt to escape, the sentence increased to 70 years in prison, 12 of which have been spent in isolated confinement.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999 offered him a pardon. The offer was made to 13 members who accepted, but López rejected it because it included completing 10 years in jail with good behavior. Leaders from around the world, as well as human rights organizations, have demanded the release of Oscar López Rivera.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and attorney Jan Susler, who have fought tirelessly for their release, reported the news to Claridad, the newspaper of Puerto Rico’s independence. Thousands of Puerto Ricans began to shout with joy, to cry with emotion and to give thanks because they will finally have López Rivera at home. His daughter Clarisa, his granddaughter Karina, his siblings and other relatives, as well as his people on the Island and in the city of Chicago, celebrated on Tuesday.

The campaign to free Oscar

Thousands of people in Puerto Rico and abroad, from the humblest to the world-renowned figures, include Pope Francis, fought for the release of López Rivera in a massive and intense campaign that lasted for years.

The most consistent and active organizations were Mujeres en el Puente, which met for years on the last Sunday of each month in San Juan, New York and Chicago; the Pro Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico; 32 by Oscar; the Hostosiano National Independence Movement; and The Puerto Rican Independence Party.

In the struggle for López Rivera’s release, the Puerto Ricans joined forces across party lines, including leaders of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Popular Democratic Party, New Progressive Party, community organizations on the island, in the United States and internationally.

On June 18, 2012, the U.N. Decolonization Committee approved a resolution, promoted by Cuba, in which it called for recognition of Puerto Rico’s right to independence and self-determination and urged the release of the pro-independence detainees in the United States.

Parts of this report were reprinted with permission from Telesur English and Claridad.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.