[Ppnews] Puerto Rican community seeks prisoner's release

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 30 10:35:10 EDT 2011



Puerto Rican community seeks prisoner's release

By Margaret Ramirez

Tribune reporter

7:25 PM CDT, May 29, 2011

With prayer, song and calls for freedom, dozens of Puerto Rican 
community members and human rights activists gathered today to mark 
the 30th year in prison for Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez 
Rivera and called for his release.

Lopez Rivera, now 68, is a gray-haired vestige of a long-gone era in 
America, when a group known as the F.A.L.N. (Spanish for the Armed 
Forces of National Liberation) fought for Puerto Rico's independence 
from the U.S.

More than a dozen FALN members were convicted and imprisoned in the 
1980s on various charges including seditious conspiracy and armed 
robbery. In 1999, President Bill Clinton granted clemency to nearly 
all the prisoners and released them.

Lopez Rivera, who is serving a 70-year sentence in a federal prison 
in Terre Haute, Ind., is now the last remaining Puerto Rican prisoner.

In recent months, the National Boricua Human Rights Network and other 
activists have launched a national campaign to urge President Barack 
Obama to commute his sentence. In addition to a prayer vigil and 
rally in Chicago, events were also held in New York, Los Angeles, 
Cleveland, Philadelphia and Puerto Rico.

At the Sunday prayer service held at Lincoln United Methodist Church 
in Chicago, the prisoner's sister, Zenaida Lopez, said her brother 
has done his time and should be allowed to come home.

In addition to his sister, Lopez Rivera has a daughter, Clarissa, who 
lives in Puerto Rico and a granddaughter, Karina, who is a student at 
the University of Chicago.

"There's one thing that's forgotten in this struggle -- and it's that 
Oscar is human," Zenaida Lopez said. "He's a brother. He's a father. 
He's a grandfather. He's a son. He's loved deeply by his family.

"We have to struggle to see that he is released, so that he becomes 
part of the family once again. It is our dream. It is our hope. It is 
something that we talk about every single day.

Also at the prayer service, two activists, Michael Reyes and Matt 
McCanna arrived after completing a 10-day, 200-mile walk from the 
federal prison in Indiana to Chicago.

The FALN was involved in a series of bombings in New York and 
Chicago, including the 1975 bombing of the Fraunces Tavern in 
Manhattan that killed four and injured more than 60 others.

Lopez was not convicted for a role in the Tavern incident.

In the Puerto Rican community, Lopez Rivera, a Vietnam War veteran 
and community organizer, is widely regarded as hero. But, others view 
him as an unrepentant terrorist.

Those opponents said his release would send the wrong message about terrorism.

In February, the U.S. Parole Commission denied Lopez Rivera parole 
and released a statement that said: "We have to look at whether 
release would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses or promote 
disrespect for the law, whether release would jeopardize public 
safety and the specific characteristics of the offender."

Even so, his attorney Jan Susler, remains hopeful of his release. She 
noted that three previous U.S. presidents have commuted sentences of 
Puerto Rican prisoners including presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy 
Carter and Clinton.

<mailto:maramirez at tribune.com>marramirez at tribune.com

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