Puerto Rico: environmentalist kayaks for prisoner’s release

On July 12 Puerto Rican environmentalist Alberto de Jesús arrived at Fort de France, capital of the French overseas department of Martinique, the latest stop in a 1,100-mile journey from Venezuela to Puerto Rico by kayak that the activist has undertaken to publicize the situation of Oscar López Rivera, an independence fighter who has been imprisoned in the US for 31 years. De Jesús, who is widely known as “Tito Kayak,” began his trip on June 20 at the Venezuelan town of Macuro, on the Paria peninsula. Despite an injury to his wrist and damage to the kayak during the first days of the journey, de Jesús was determined to continue to Puerto Rico; afterwards he may go on to the US East Coast.

López Rivera was arrested in 1981 and accused of conspiracy to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico. The US government said he was linked to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which carried out bombings in New York City and Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s that caused several deaths, but US prosecutors never connected him directly to any bombings. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

De Jesús is known for a number of daring protests, especially during the campaign that led to the withdrawal of the US Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003. In 2000 he placed a Puerto Rican flag on the crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and in 2007 he was imprisoned in Israel for flying a Palestinian flag on a tower in the wall that separates that country from the Palestinian territories. (El Nuevo Día, Guaynabo, June 27; InterNews Service, July 12, via Claridad, Puerto Rico; Primera Hora, Guaynabo, July 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 15.

See our last post on Puerto Rico.