14 September 2016

Puerto Rican Religious Leaders Demand Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera

SAN JUAN – The local religious movement known as the Coalition for the Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera on Thursday called on authorities to free the Puerto Rican independence activist and sought support for the Oct. 9 event in Washington lobbying for his release.

“That a group of leaders of different religious sectors is uniting for the release ... of my dad give me a lot of hope,” Clarisa Lopez Ramos, the daughter of Lopez Rivera, told EFE.

Lopez Rivera has been behind bars for 35 years after being convicted of seditious conspiracy and is currently being held in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

His daughter was referring to the support provided for his release by San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Methodist Bishop Juan Vera, Lutheran Bishop Felipe Lozada Montañez and the secretary of the Pueto Rico Bible Society, Rev. Heriberto Martinez, who participated on Thursday in a press conference to demand Lopez Rivera’s release.

“The support of these people confirms that Oscar Lopez is not only a political prisoner, but also an example of the violation of human rights,” said Lopez Ramos about her father, a Vietnam veteran and former member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN.

“We have to take advantage of the opportunity in the last few months that remain to (Barack) Obama (in the White House) for him to make a decision. This is not a local request, but an international one. My father has always said: ‘The struggle will always be our reward,’” she said.

After a decade of active struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States, on May 29, 1981, Lopez Rivera – 38 at the time – was arrested by U.S. authorities.

He was covicted and sentenced later that year to 55 years in prison for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government on the island and in 1991 he was handed another 15 years behind bars for an escape attempt.

He was imprisoned with other like-minded individuals who actively fought from Chicago during the 1980s for the island’s independence. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 11 of them.

Clinton also offered a pardon to Lopez Rivera, but he – who had never been accused of any violent crimes – refused to accept it if it did not apply to all his companions.

The Coalition for the Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera on Tuesday expressed its support for the “Obama Free Oscar Now” event to be held on Oct. 9 in Washington.

“Oscar has spent too much time in prison. Both because of his age and the conditions in which he is being held, it’s time for him to go free,” Bishop Lozada Montañez, the president of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches, told EFE.

Expected to take part in the Oct. 9 event are African American intellectual and civil rights activist Cornel West, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez – who is Puerto Rican descent – and Puerto Rican artists Rene Perez, Danny Rivera, Roy Brown and the Jovenes del 98 group.

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