In Florida, support for freedom for Puerto Rican political prisoner

oscar lopez rivera3

ORLANDO, Fla.-"Oscar Lopez's only crime is the love of the Puerto Rican people and their struggle against colonialism, which Puerto Rico has been subjected to since the 1898 invasion by U.S. military forces," said Debbe Ryan, of the Central Florida chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights 

Ryan spoke Apr. 26 at the kick-off meeting of the Orlando chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, the group's first chapter in the South. The NBHRN works for the decontamination of former U.S. Navy facilities on the island of Vieques, the release of all Puerto Rican political prisoners, and an end to political repression and criminalization of progressive forces within the Puerto Rican community.

The primary focus was building support for freedom for Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, who has spent 31 years in federal institutions. The NBHRN has started a month-long campaign to bring attention to Lopez's case, including letter writing and a multi-media exhibit.

Lopez, an advocate of Puerto Rican independence, is the longest-held political prisoner in the history of the island, although there are prisoners from the Black and Native American liberation movements, such as Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox ,  and Leonard Peltier , who have been incarcerated longer.

Lopez, 69, is in poor health and in the past has been denied proper medical care by federal authorities. He also has been refused permission to attend his mother and sister's funerals. While incarcerated Lopez has run educational programs for other prisoners out of his cell and has become an accomplished artist.

Lopez's only hope for freedom lies in a pardon from President Obama. His release enjoys wide support in Puerto Rico, far beyond the pro-independence sector of public opinion, from the Senate and House, the Bar Association, former governors, unions, religious denominations, and community activists, among other sectors. Lopez also has growing support among sectors of the Latino and Puerto Rican communities in the U.S.

Another advocate for Puerto Rican indepencence, Luis Rosa was in federal prison from 1980 to 1999, when he and nine other independentistas received clemency from then-President Bill Clinton.

Although Lopez also was offered clemency, he refused it because it did not include fellow nationalists Carlos Alberto Torres and Haydee Beltran, and because of the stipulations imposed, including making Lopez serve an additional 10 years without any infractions of prison rules.

"Imagine this, you're nine years, 11 months, 20 days into that 10-year sentence, and a guard comes in there, puts a knife in the cell, and writes you [up for] a shot [infraction]," said Rosa.

A similar situation occurred with Carlos Alberto Torres, said Rosa. He came up for a parole hearing after 30 years, only to be moved to a six-man cell days before the hearing. Torres subsequently had his parole denied when three knives found in the cell were falsely claimed to be his. Torres only won his release in 2010 after a concerted campaign by supporters and human rights activists.

At his first federal parole hearing, Lopez was denied the right to call witnesses and to have legal observers and family members present, while the government called 11 witnesses who sought to implicate Lopez in acts in which he was not involved. His next parole hearing will not be until 2027, when he will be 84.

Lopez, born in San Sebastian, P.R., moved to Chicago when he was a teenager. In the 1960s he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star. After he returned home, he became a community activist, working on issues of poverty, discrimination, education, and police brutality in Chicago's Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

According to the NBHRN, Lopez "was arrested in 1981, accused of being a member of a clandestine force seeking independence for Puerto Rico, and sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy. He was not accused or convicted of causing harm or taking a life.

"In 1988, as the result of a government-made conspiracy to escape, he was given an additional 15 years, a sentence which will begin only after he has finished serving the 55-year sentence."

The federal seditious conspiracy statute under which Lopez was convicted was developed during the Civil War to punish Confederate leaders, and otherwise has only been used against Puerto Rican nationalists, in 1952 and 1981.

"From 1986 to 1998, he was held in the most super maximum security prisons in the federal prison system," says the NBHRN, "in conditions not unlike those at Guantanamo under which 'enemy combatants,' are held, conditions which the International Red Cross, among other human rights organizations, have called tantamount to torture."

The 12 years that Lopez, currently held at a federal facility in Terre Haute, Ind., spent in solitary were meant "to break his spirit, and to actually make him crazy or suicidal," said Rosa.

In Chicago,  the NBHRN, along with Batey Urbano and the Latino Coalition, launched "31 Days for 31 Years," a multimedia and interactive exhibit for Lopez's release.

Letters of support only (no money or printed materials) may be sent to Oscar Lopez Rivera:

Oscar Lopez Rivera # 87651-024
FCI Terre HauteP.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, Ind. 47808

Photo: Oscar Lopez-Rivera (AP)


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  • The Second Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2015

    We will be having our 2nd Oscar – Mandela Protest March on Monday, June 22, 2015. We will start marching peacefully at 9 AM from Hunter College on East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, to East 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. We will then go East (turning left) to end up at the Ralph Bunche Park on First Avenue (across from the United Nations).

    We will be at the park until 5 PM. We will be giving out flyers and talking to people about who Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is. We will also be educating the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the government of the United States (US).

    Most people don’t know that every year, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, the United Nations holds its hearing about the decolonization of Puerto Rico. The petitioners will usually join our protest after this meeting.

    The UN determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Since then, the UN has issued 33 resolutions asking for the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. The US government has ignored these resolutions. What kind of democracy is that?

    The US government tries to keep these hearings a secret. What we are trying to do is to get them out of the closet. The UN is in its 3rd decade trying to make the world colony-free. Please help us!

    Most people also don’t know that the United States government takes out 14 times more money than what it invests in Puerto Rico. But, that is what colonies are for!

    This savage exploitation impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to provide opportunities for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans living away from Puerto Rico than in their homeland.

    Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 34 years for his struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico. Since colonialism is an international crime, international law gives Oscar the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize his homeland. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years for doing the same thing as Oscar. This is why we say, Oscar López Rivera is our Nelson Mandela!

    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization invites the public to be part of the tsunami of people that will be necessary to make the US government comply with the UN resolutions. These annual protests in Puerto Rico and at the UN are absolutely necessary, because, those who maintain colonies, don’t believe in justice for all!

    José M López Sierra

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 04/24/2015 3:47pm (7 months ago)

  • Why does Puerto Rico have a higher voter turnout than USA?

    Puerto Ricans have a voter turnout of about 80%. The United States (US) citizens have a voter turnout of about 50%. What accounts for this 30 % disparity? Could it be that Puerto Rican believe in democracy more than US mainland citizens?

    Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States since 1898. Since that time, Puerto Ricans who have wanted to decolonize their country have been either assassinated or imprisoned. Many Puerto Ricans are terrified of independence for Puerto Rico as a result of 116 years of repression.

    Since colonialism is always for exploitation, there are no opportunities in Puerto Rico for Puerto Ricans. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans out, than in Puerto Rico. Therefore, Puerto Ricans are desperate to find a political solution to our eternal colonialism!

    Most Puerto Ricans believe that decolonization can be achieved through the electoral process. But the electoral process is ultimately under the control of the government of the United States. Since the US government has ignored 33 United Nations resolutions asking it to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico, and it has maintained incarcerated Puerto Rico political prisoner Oscar López Rivera for 33 years despite worldwide support to free him, there should be no doubt that the US government will never allow decolonization via the electoral process. If it were possible to do it that way, we would not have it!

    The better way to decolonize is for that 80% of the Puerto Rico voter turnout to instead protest in the streets to demand our inalienable right to self-determination and independence, and insist that the UN do the decolonization in conformity to international law. After all, colonialism is within the jurisdiction of international law and never under national law. That is why it is a crime against humanity to have a colony under international law, but not so under US law.

    José M López Sierra

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 12/02/2014 11:55am (12 months ago)

  • Dear Partner,

    Since the United Nations determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity, there is no longer a need for plebiscites. The solution is to give Puerto Rico her sovereignty.

    But being the United States government does not want to, it continues to advocate the use of plebiscites to find out what Puerto Ricans want. Even if 100% of Puerto Ricans would want to continue being a US colony, Puerto Rico would still be obligated to accept her sovereignty to then decide what she wants to do.

    The only thing these plebiscites are good for is to divide Puerto Ricans. A Puerto Rican didn’t invade us to make us a colony. When will we understand that we need to unite?

    This is why we must peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until Puerto Rico is decolonized!

    José M López Sierra

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 10/07/2014 7:35pm (1 year ago)

  • Dear Partner,

    After the approval of the 33rd United Nations’ resolution by consensus on June 23, 2014 asking the United States (US) to immediately decolonize of Puerto Rico, we should work together to force the United States government to comply with it.

    The facts that the United States government has maintained Puerto Rico as its colony for 116 years, has had Oscar López Rivera in prison for 33 years for fighting for Puerto Rico decolonization, and has ignored 33 UN resolutions to decolonize Puerto Rico, confirm that the US government has no intentions of ever decolonizing Puerto Rico. Therefore, we need to form a tsunami of people to force the US to comply with the 33 resolutions.

    We should peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until we achieve our goal. The first one will be a march up to the US Courthouse in Puerto Rico on the Abolition of Slavery Day on March 22. The second will be another march in Puerto Rico on a day before the UN’s Puerto Rico decolonization hearing. The third one will be a protest in New York City on the same day the UN holds its Puerto Rico decolonization hearing.

    These 3 protests are indispensable, because those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

    José M López Sierra
    Comité Timón del Pueblo
    United Partners for the Decolonization of Puerto Rico

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 07/04/2014 10:23am (1 year ago)

  • Greetings Partner,

    We will have a peaceful protest on Saturday, November 23rd in Puerto Rico for the liberation of our patriot and political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Click on the link below for more information.

    Un abrazo,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 10/28/2013 3:32pm (2 years ago)

  • Greetings,

    We need to work together to decolonize Puerto Rico and free Oscar López Rivera. Join 2 peaceful protests until it is accomplished!

    Un abrazo,

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 08/13/2013 8:54am (2 years ago)

  • Ya! NO MAS !
    I am confident President Obama will pardon him, but that will take 4 more years. Free him now !

    Posted by Rodrigo Dominguz, 07/20/2012 12:40am (3 years ago)

  • It's time to free all Puerto-Rican nationalist that has been doing nothing but serving their time in the U.S. American prison's! The U.S. American's have some nerve to call us Puerto Rican's terroist to society just because we believe in Freedom from imperialism, freedom from the United State's and their corrupted politic's that are destroying my country every day! But these U.S. American's should recognize themselves as the terroist! The U.S. has been the terroist way before the new generation of the Taliban clan. Since the beggining of the formation of the U.S. They have done nothing but invaded foreign country's and act like they are the FBI's of all Foreign nation's even when the conflicts of foreign nation's had nothing to do with the U.S. Just remember at one time when the United State's of America was once 13 original colony's. The once known empire of "Great Britian" had taken control of the 13 colony's and treated colonial's as if they were nothing but slaves. The British had controled their rights, and even wen't to a extreme with Colonialism in the states. The 13 colonial's at one point were fed-up with the treatment and demanded independence! As much as the British took their demanding for freedom as a joke the U.S did something and eventually became what it is today! a imperialist terroist nation of the world! Just like the British! WE WANT INDEPENDENCE, WE WANT OUR PUERTO RICAN NATIONALIST TO COME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Justin , 05/02/2012 9:18pm (4 years ago)

  • Hello,

    Here another way to support Oscar and the reason why he has spent 31 years in prison!

    I am trying to spread the word about the annual United Nation (UN) hearing concerning the decolonization of Puerto Rico.

    The UN is in its third decade trying to eradicate colonialism, since it is considered a threat to world peace.

    The hearing will be held on June, 18, 2012 (more information at

    Thank you for your time in this matter!

    José M. López Sierra
    Bayamón, Puerto Rico
    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” MLK

    Posted by Jose M Lopez Sierra, 05/02/2012 4:46pm (4 years ago)

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