Clemency for Oscar L贸pez Rivera

Lopez Rivera

Oscar L贸pez Rivera, the longest-held Puerto Rican political prisoner in the US, was among 209 federal inmates granted clemency by President Barack Obama on Jan. 17. His sentence commuted, L贸pez Rivera is now set to be released in May from the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind. Rep. Luis Guti茅rrez (D-IL), in announcing the commutation, said: “Thank you, President Obama, thank you on behalf of millions of Puerto Ricans on the island and around the world.” Arrested by the FBI in Chicago in 1981, L贸pez Rivera was convicted of “seditious conspiracy” as an adherent of the pro-independence Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). Other charges included armed robbery, although he was never accused of any actual act of violence. If Obama had not intervened, he would have remained in captivity until June 26, 2023, five months after his 80th birthday.

At the time of his capture, L贸pez Rivera proclaimed himself a prisoner of war, protected by the First Protocol of the Geneva Convention, as a prisoner detained in a conflict against colonial occupation. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison;聽after an alleged attempt to escape, the sentence increased to 70 years. He has spent聽12 years in solitary confinement.

President Bill Clinton in 1999 offered him a pardon. The offer was also made to 12 other聽accused FALN adherents聽who accepted, but L贸pez rejected it because it included a stipulation that he serve the 15-year sentence he was given in 1987 for “conspiracy to escape.” In June 2012, the UN Decolonization Committee approved a resolution, promoted by Cuba, calling for recognition of Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination and urging the release of the pro-independence detainees in the United States. Similar resolutions were approved in 2013 and 2014.

The FALN was disbanded in 1983, at which time聽L贸pez Rivera and his imprisoned comrades renounced violence, while continuing to advance independence for Puerto Rico.聽Figures ranging from Bernie Sanders to Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda to South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu had聽appealed to Obama to grant him clemency.

Upon his release,聽L贸pez Rivera plans to visit with family in Chicago, where he moved from Puerto Rico when he was 14 years old, and then return to the island to continue organizing and fighting for its liberation.聽(Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune,聽TeleSur, Mother Jones, NPR, The Guardian, Claridad,聽Puerto Rico,聽Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico)

Photo via PM Press