You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about Oscar López Rivera, but who is he? For one, he’s the longest-held political prisoner in Puerto Rico’s history. Second, he’s been in prison for more than 35 years for a nonviolent conviction, according to Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez.
Puerto Rican Oscar López Rivera has been a political prisoner for more than 35 years.
Firme la petición por la libertad de Oscar López Rivera pic.twitter.com/fa2Y4B07yk
— Abel Derivet (@AbelDerivet) November 23, 2016
López Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy.
According to Cornell Law, seditious conspiracy is defined as “two or more persons” attempting to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.”
López Rivera is currently being held in prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
López Rivera is accused of being a part of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional or FALN).
— Jrap Guayaquil (@JrapGuayaquil) November 23, 2016
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, FALN formed in the mid-1970s and its members were responsible for several bombings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. One such bombing led to the death of four people in New York City.
Now that President Obama’s time left in the White House is coming to an end, there is a renewed push to have López Rivera pardoned.
— Pulso Estudiantil (@PulsoEST) November 23, 2016
“Do you think that if the U.S. government had any evidence against him of any involvement that they wouldn’t have prosecuted him? Of course they would have,” Jan Susler, López’s attorney, told NBC News. “Oscar had no victims. He was never part of any bombings.”
And the campaign to have López Rivera pardoned has drawn some big Puerto Rican names like Ricky Martin…
Come on gang, Sign and RT for President Obama to free Oscar Lopez Rivera before he ends his term as President. https://t.co/HXcTdMCGPd
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) November 23, 2016
And most recently, Calle 13’s Residente.
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) December 8, 2016
“Oscar López didn’t kill anyone, he was a pacifist,” Residente said in a Facebook video. “His story has been taken out of context and they’ve even called him a terrorist but that’s false. He was only fighting for Puerto Rico’s independence, he even fought in Vietnam for the U.S.”
And the call for his release from prison is coming from more countries that just the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
CREDIT: @CubanitoEnCuba / Twitter
“Mr. President, throughout your presidential term, the people of Puerto Rico have united behind one common cause; the freedom of Oscar López Rivera,” Swedish politicians told President Obama in a letter, according to Tele Sur TV. “As your administration is winding down you and only you have the opportunity to allow Oscar López Rivera to live out the final part of his life in his homeland with his family.”
A petition on the White House website has received enough signatures needed to prompt a response.
“Due to Mr. López’s age, health condition, and desire to return home, we believe he should be pardoned for the crimes he committed. Oscar López has already spent 35 years in federal prison for nonviolent offenses,” Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico’s Governor-elect, told President Obama in the letter, according to NBC News. “Although the charges against him are very serious, so are our compassion and mercy.”
Several politicians have started to pressure the president to make a decision.
A group of Oscar López Rivera supporters from Puerto Rico, U.S. mainland held a press conference on Capitol Hill. https://t.co/SOs1lSlEEz
— NBC Latino (@NBCLatino) December 12, 2016
“He [López Rivera] was not convicted of committing a violent crime,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez said on the House floor. “Rather, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy: espousing the belief that Puerto Rico are capable of, entitled to, and have the unalienable right to self-determination and freedom.”
Even everybody’s favorite grandpa, Bernie Sanders, has been campaigning for López Rivera’s release.
Con Senator Bernie Sanders #FreeOscarLopezRivera
Posted by Residente on Thursday, December 8, 2016
López Rivera was offered a deal by President Bill Clinton in 1999 but didn’t take it. According to The Guardian, López Rivera turned down the deal because it required an additional 10 years in prison and would leave two of his co-defendants behind.
“He refused to leave anyone behind,” Susler told The Guardian. “He is a Vietnam veteran, and still strongly believes that you do not leave your friends behind. However, since [López Rivera] is the last Puerto Rican political prisoner, those conditions no longer apply.”