[Pnews] Puerto Rico's Oscar Lopez Freed After 36 Years in US Prison
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 17 10:54:27 EDT 2017
Puerto Rico's Oscar Lopez Freed After 36 Years in US Prison
May 17, 2017
Puerto Rican independence leader Oscar Lopez Rivera was released
Wednesday from house arrest in Puerto Rico after former U.S. President
Barack Obama commuted his sentence in January, days before Donald Trump
"I thank the whole world, and I ask for love for the whole world," Lopez
said to media in his first words once he was freed, adding that now that
he has returned to the island, he will continue his fight for
independence and reach out to Puerto Ricans to hear about their needs.
"I like to listen," Lopez said. "I want to visit each municipality,
listen and see what we can do."
Lopez also spoke out about the massive cuts targeting the island's main
public post-secondary education institution, the University of Puerto
Rico, which has seen funding slashed as part of a harsh austerity plan
to tackle the Puerto Rico's crippling debt, sparking widespread protests.
"The University of Puerto Rico has to exist, it has to continue to get
better. To students, they need to fight, " Lopez said. "We will never
resign and will always push forward. We can. We are a beautiful people
and I think we can come together."
In early February, Lopez Rivera was transferred
the Terre Haute penitentiary in Indiana, where the leading activist
spent about two-thirds of his more than 30-year prison term, to his
daughter's home in Puerto Rico.
His electronic bracelet was removed one day before his official release.
Various artists are expected to perform at a party organized to
celebrate his freedom on the island.
The independence leader will finally meet with his old comrades and
plans to travel to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among other countries,
in order to thank those who supported his release, said his lawyer to
Lopez Rivera was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and later moved to the
United States. After being drafted to serve in the Vietnam War and
returning to Chicago, Lopez Rivera joined the struggle for Puerto Rican
rights. In 1976, he joined the fight for Puerto Rican independence from
U.S. colonial rule as a member of the Armed Forces of National
Liberation, also known as FALN.
He was arrested in 1981 and charged with “seditious conspiracy” for his
role in a variety of FALN activities.
During his trial, Lopez Rivera and other FALN activists told the court
their actions were part of an anti-colonial war against the U.S.,
declaring themselves prisoners of war and requesting that their cases be
handed over to an international court. That request was denied, and
Lopez Rivera was eventually sentenced to 55 years in prison — a sentence
almost 20 times longer than those handed down for similar offenses.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton offered Lopez Rivera a pardon in
1999, but the independence activist rejected it in an act of solidarity
with other Puerto Rican activists who had not been offered clemency and
because he refused to publicly renounce the right of colonized peoples
to resist through armed struggle.
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