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Issue #1762      January 25, 2017

Puerto Rico

Independence fighter free

Oscar will be freed! Oscar López Rivera, the Puerto Rican political prisoner who has served the most years in prison for fighting for his country’s independence, had his sentence commuted by President Barack Obama, January 17, 2017.

The United States government announced the release of López Rivera, who has been imprisoned in the US for 36 years for his struggle to free Puerto Rico from US colonial rule. López Rivera’s sentence will now expire on May 17, according to a White House source, consulted by the EFE news agency.

López Rivera, born in Puerto Rico in 1943, is an independence leader in his native country. Upon returning to Chicago after serving in the Vietnam War, he joined the struggle for the rights of the Puerto Rican people and participated in acts of civil disobedience and other actions.

In 1976 he joined the clandestine fight for the independence of Puerto Rico as a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation. In 1981 he was captured by the FBI accused of “conspiracy” and for his militancy in the FALN.

At the time of his capture, he proclaimed himself a prisoner of war, protected in the first protocol of the Geneva Convention of 1949. The protocol protects López Rivera for being a person arrested in conflict against colonial occupation.

The US did not recognise the demand of López Rivera and sentenced him to 55 years in prison, after an alleged attempt to escape, the sentence increased to 70 years in prison, 12 of which have been spent in isolated confinement.

Former US President Bill Clinton in 1999 offered him a pardon. The offer was made to 13 members who accepted, but López rejected it because it included completing 10 years in jail with good behaviour. Leaders from around the world, as well as human rights organisations, have demanded the release of Oscar López Rivera.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and attorney Jan Susler, who have fought tirelessly for their release, reported the news to Claridad, the newspaper of Puerto Rico’s independence.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans began to shout with joy, to cry with emotion and to give thanks because they will finally have López Rivera at home. His daughter Clarisa, his granddaughter Karina, his siblings and other relatives, as well as his people on the Island and in the city of Chicago, celebrated.

Thousands of people in Puerto Rico and abroad, from the humblest to the world-renowned figures, include Pope Francis, fought for the release of López Rivera in a massive and intense campaign that lasted for years.

The most consistent and active organisations were Mujeres en el Puente, which met for years on the last Sunday of each month in San Juan, New York and Chicago; the Pro Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico; 32 by Oscar; the Hostosiano National Independence Movement; and The Puerto Rican Independence Party.

In the struggle for López Rivera’s release, the Puerto Ricans joined forces across party lines, including leaders of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Popular Democratic Party, New Progressive Party, community organisations on the island, in the United States and internationally.

On June 18, 2012, the UN Decolonisation Committee approved a resolution, promoted by Cuba, in which it called for recognition of Puerto Rico’s right to independence and self-determination and urged the release of the pro-independence detainees in the United States.

People’s World

Next article – Delusional threats and “Hard Brexit”

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