BY ISMAEL NUNEZ (Call Me Ismael)
This past November 30th 2012, a press conference was held at Local 1199 Auditorium with New York State and City elected officials, including State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, Bronx; 33rd Senate District); Assemblyman José Rivera (D, NYS 78th District); and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D, NYC Council District 8). The reason for this gets together? It was a “send-off” for a delegation New York elected officials joining U.S. Representative Luis Guiterrez (D, Illinois, 4th District) on a special trip to meet with Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera who’s being held at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Who’s Oscar Lopez Rivera, you might ask? If one goes to the website www.prolibertadweb.com you’ll get a clear description: Lopez Rivera was born on January 6th, 1943. He was a well-respected community activist, a community organizer for the Illinois branch of the community organization ASPIRA as well as for the 1st Congregational Church of Chicago. He helped to found FREE, a half-way house for convicted drug addicts and ALAS an educational program for Latino prisoners at Stateville Prison in Illinois.1 “He was also involved in community struggles in the areas of health care, employment, and police brutality.”2
For his involvement in the sometimes violent movement for the independence for Puerto Rico, he was forced to go underground with other reputed leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), a Puerto Rican Nationalists group linked to more than 100 bombings and five deaths in the 1970s3. On May 29th 1981, the FBI stated he was “one of the most feared fugitives from American justice”4, for which he was charged with seditious conspiracy and various other offenses.
Since then, Lopez Rivera has served more than 30 years in prison for his political beliefs; though neither during nor after the trial was he accused or convicted of causing harm or taking a life. He is serving a sentence of 70 years; also with additional time added after being accused of an escape attempt in 1988, his release date is 2023.
Council member Mark Viverito stated in a memo and at the press conference proudly “After serving 31 years in prison, it’s time to bring him home.” Even though he was not convicted of harming or killing anyone, he has served more time in prison than anyone in the history of the movement for the independence of Puerto Rico.
The other elected officials spoke well, yet the main speaker was Lopez Rivera’s daughter, Clarisa. She spoke proudly of her father, stating:
“It’s true he’s not here, yet he is remember the proud work he did in the past community organizing, education, unity this shows he is in siprit with all of us! He missed out my graduations from High School, College, holidays with family me and my family know he is our hearts/minds! What a holiday gift it would be, for Oscar to celebrate Christmas with his family for the first time in over three decades!
Alejandro Luis Molina, coordinator from the Boricua Human Rights Network
ended the night by saying, “Our attendance here shows we have a positive outlook not just for Oscar all political prisoners! OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA PRESENTE!!
Here is address where one can write to Oscar:
Oscar Lopez Rivera
FCI Terre Haute
PO Box 33
Terre Haute, IN, 47808
References included in this post are attributed to both of these websites: www.prolibertadweb.com
For more information and references about Oscar Lopez Rivera, please visit the wikipedia entry about him and his activities, as well as the sites and references listed within the page.