May 29, 2016 marked the 35th year of the unjust imprisonment of Puerto Rican freedom fighter Oscar López Rivera in U.S. jails. López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison by the U.S. colonial power for his just and principled stands to defend the dignity and sovereignty of the Puerto Rican people and spent 12 years in solitary confinement for his political stand. Today, freedom and justice-minded people across the Americas and all Puerto Rican patriots are uniting to step up the work for Oscar López Rivera’s liberation. On the eve of the 35th anniversary of López Rivera’s imprisonment all-sided efforts were underway to demand his immediate release.
Mass rally and march in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Committee for Human Rights in Puerto Rico along with the group 33 en 33 x Oscar organized a mass rally and march in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico on May 29. Committee Spokesperson Eduardo Villanueva stated, “Every day that passes, there is a greater urgency to secure his release from prison and to redouble our efforts.” Organizers are calling on the Puerto Rican nation to go all out to show their overwhelming support for bringing López Rivera back home. “The call is for all people, all organizations and institutions, public, and private, the people in general, to participate in the march at this critical time, marked by the proximity to the end of the mandate of US President Barack Obama,” Villanueva said.
Unanimous call from elected officials
Puerto Ricans elected to office in the United States unanimously agreed on April 23 to request a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama to demand López Rivera’s release. The 30 elected officials had their first meeting in October 2015 after the creation of the Caucus of Puerto Rican Elected Officials in the United States and includes Congressional representatives, city council members and state legislators. The National Puerto Rican Agenda, comprised of elected officials as well as 50 organizations of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. and elsewhere also agreed to support the call for Rivera’s freedom. The Hispanic Congressional Caucus in the U.S. likewise demands his release.
The leaders of all Puerto Rican political parties, Puerto Rican governor Alejandro García Padilla, the Puerto Rican legislature, and religious, civic and union leaders have also united to request President Obama grant López Rivera clemency. Democratic congressman Luis Gutiérrez (Illinois) declared to López Rivera’s daughter as the elected officials met in April that “your father will be in your arms this year. He will walk the streets of San Sebastián and Chicago this year.” Demanding the release of López Rivera was “the first concrete thing the caucus of elected officials agreed to,” said Gutiérrez. Planning is underway for activities throughout the year including a Freedom Concert in Washington, D.C. and mobilizations in September.
Poets for Oscar Poetry Marathon
Thirty-five poets from three cities in the U.S. have united for a live-streamed poetry marathon which began on Friday, May 27 and continues until the anniversary of López Rivera’s imprisonment on May 29. The event is being broadcast on the website of the National Boricua Human Rights Network at boricuahumanrights.org.
On Friday, May 27, five poets from Los Angeles County had a reading at Tia Chucha Cultural Center; On Saturday, May 28 another reading was held in New York City at La Marqueta Retoña; And on Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 pm 35 poets from Chicago will be reading at Casa de Oscar, 2628 W Division St.
Coinciding with the May 29 event in Chicago, the group 35 Women for Oscar Chicago will gather and rally for 35 minutes. Similar rallies take place in Puerto Rico, Boston and New York City each month.
City council resolutions
The city council of Holyoke, Massachusetts unanimously adopted a resolution on April 5 urging President Obama “to exercise his Constitutional power to grant the immediate and unconditional release of Oscar López Rivera.” The motion was introduced by city councillor Nelson Roman during his first day in office, and the vote followed a march through the city. City councillors also noted that 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Irish rebellion of 1916 and drew comparisons to the struggles of the Puerto Rican and Irish people against colonialism. On May 18, the city council of Springfield, Massachusetts unanimously supported a similar resolution calling for Rivera’s immediate release. This follows resolutions passed in 2015 by New York City council and others.
Efforts will continue until López Rivera is free
Oscar López Rivera is the last remaining prisoner among those he was arrested with as part of the U.S. efforts to crush the movement for Puerto Rican freedom from U.S. colonial rule. In 1999 President Clinton offered clemency to 13 Puerto Rican political prisoners including López Rivera. This was rejected by López Rivera because two other co-defendants were not included in the offer. Since then, all except Oscar have been released. There is widespread international support for his release, including from 10 Nobel Laureates, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and countless popular organizations throughout the Americas.
A most important quality of Oscar López Rivera is his refusal in 35 years to renounce any of the positions in support of the sovereignty of Puerto Rico for which he was jailed. This steadfastness and fidelity to the cause of the Puerto Rican people has been recognized throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, the U.S. and around the world by all the forces who are fighting for dignity, justice and independence and against U.S. imperialism. This is also the quality of the Puerto Rican people who in the face of the massacres and other atrocities, police intrigues, plunder and colonial dictate continue to fight for their sovereignty and dignity. The all-sided support for the liberation of López Rivera is an expression of the fighting unity of Puerto Ricans and their refusal to surrender.
On this occasion of 35 years of his unjust imprisonment, TML Weekly sends militant greetings to Oscar López Rivera and his family and to the Puerto Rican people and reiterates the demand for his immediate liberation and for the U.S. to end its colonial domination of the nation of Puerto Rico.
Not a single day more of the unjust imprisonment of Oscar López Rivera!
We demand Oscar’s freedom! The Executive Secretariat of the Network of Intellectuals, Actors and Social Movements in Defence of Humanity (REDH, for its Spanish acronym) demands the immediate release of Oscar López Rivera, the oldest political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico and Latin America in a United States prison. Lopez Rivera was never accused of hurting anyone or taking part in any violent actions. He is imprisoned for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico, a just cause that the Network in Defence of Humanity is committed to support. This year Oscar López turns 73 years old, having spent 35 of those years incarcerated in U.S. federal prisons.
Twelve of his co-defendants were released in 1999 through a presidential pardon from then-President Bill Clinton. And two others were released in 2009 and 2010 respectively through the U.S. Parole Commission.
The only remaining prisoner is Oscar López Rivera. All of his co-defendants have proven to be productive members of their community; there is no reason to think otherwise about Oscar, who enjoys strong support from his family and his community. Also important personalities from Puerto Rico and the world are calling for his freedom.
It is necessary to take into account that Oscar López Rivera has endured the toughest of all possible conditions in prison during the past 35 years of confinement. Oscar Lopez is a veteran of the Viet Nam war and received the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic act of saving the life of an American during one of the battles in which he participated. After Vietnam Oscar returned to his community in Chicago where he became a respected activist. Among other important actions, he helped found the Pedro Albizu Campos High School in the Puerto Rican community there and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Cultural Center, which currently is still in operation providing services to youth and adults residing in the area.
Thousands of people in Puerto Rico of different political spectrums, affiliations and ideologies have supported the commutation of his sentence. Among these political figures, is the former Governor of Puerto Rico Anibal Acevedo Vila, the current Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who recently visited him in prison in the penitentiary in Terre Haute, and the current Resident Commissioner Pedro Perluisi and Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan.
Well-known personalities in the fight for Human Rights including the Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina, Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Ireland and tens of thousands of people have signed letters asking for his release.
For all the reasons expressed above and representing the feelings of thousands of intellectuals, artists, and social organizations, the Secretariat of the Network in Defence of Humanity asks President Obama to make use of the powers conferred to him by the Constitution of the United States and commute the sentence of the Puerto Rican Patriot Oscar López Rivera so he can return to his home and his family in Puerto Rico.