Community Leaders Rejoice at Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera
With President Obama’s commutation of Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence, many prominent members of the community have expressed a sense of release and joy at the announcement of his clemency.
After serving 35 of a 70-year sentence for a number of charges, including seditious conspiracy, which is a charge applied to persons who have been accused of plotting to overthrow the United States government. many have expressed their joy over the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera.
“I am so proud that after over 30 years of activism and advocacy from countless individuals and organizations, our last remaining Puerto Rican political prisoner will be free at last. Pennsylvania 4 Puerto Rico, the National Puerto Rican Agenda, and the National Boricua Human Rights Network have all agreed that Oscar’s cause represented an important point of unity for our community, and we have proudly rallied in support of clemency in this case,” Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez stated.
A member of F.A.L.N. (also known as the Armed Forces of National Liberation), Oscar Lopez Rivera has been seen as a political prisoner by many throughout the community. Though Rivera was not connected to any of the particular events, F.A.L.N. as a group was linked to over 100 bombings in New York and surrounding areas throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Despite his previous offer from Bill Clinton for release under controlled circumstances, of which Rivera denied, his imprisonment has been seen by some as not only a sign of the United States view of Puerto Rico’s status but also those who challenge government positions on the issues that matter to them.
““I think there are multiple layers of this. There is what Oscar’s vision and mission was in terms of him wanting to fight for the independence of his country and the way in which he participated and was accused of these crimes and put in jail and so on and so forth is one aspect of this. But you may not agree with the way in which he was a part of the F.A.L.N.… but he as an individual has a right to want the independence of his country,” Carmen Febo San Miguel, Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueno.
Under Mr. Obama’s commutation order, Mr. Lopez Rivera’s prison sentence will expire May 17. It was one of 209 grants of commutation by the president announced Tuesday.
“It’s been very emotional - 35 years and never found guilty of anything so it was really nice to have this victory and really nice of Obama to do it. And especially in these times when there’s so much unrest of the political environment in the U.S. and so much division, it’s really nice to see something positive come out,” Nilda Ruiz, President and CEO of APM for Everyone.
But overall, the release of Rivera symbolizes a hope for the future and unity amongst Puerto Ricans as a whole. “He - across political parties in Puerto Rico - had the support of Puerto Rico to get him released. So people who are pro state, people who are pro-independence, people who are pro-commonwealth - everybody the church, Desmond Tutu, the Pope, what more do you need,” said San Miguel.
Prominent leaders in the Philadelphia region and Puerto Rican community have expressed hopes for hosting him in the future. “This is a tremendous moment for Oscar and his family and for all Puerto Ricans, on the mainland and on the Island, who have spoken out for justice and clemency. The Puerto Rican community in Philadelphia looks forward to hosting him soon,” Councilwoman Sanchez stated.