Release Oscar López Rivera

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Januar 6, 2016

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org;

On the occasion of Oscar López Rivera’s 73rd birthday today, we demand that President Obama show compassion and release the country’s longest serving political prisoner. In his 34th year behind bars, the release of López Rivera is an international cause célèbre, which everyone from Bishop Desmond Tutu to members of Congress to South American presidents calling for his release.

A decorated Vietnam War veteran and respected community activist, López Rivera is due to be released in 2027 when he will be 84 years old.

“After 34 years behind bars, Oscar deserves to get out of prison and continue a free life,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The sentence he has served is disproportionate to what the government said he did.”

Cartagena visited López Rivera in prison last month. “I saw a strong willed man, committed to his fight for freedom.”

López Rivera, a Bronze Star decorated Vietnam Veteran has never been charged or convicted of a violent crime, yet has served 12 years in solitary confinement. The Archbishop of Puerto Rico, 6 Nobel Laureates, 6 Presidents of Latin America countries, all three major political parties in Puerto Rico, and 6 members of Congress have called for his release.

In 1981, López Rivera was convicted in the United States of the thought crime of "seditious conspiracy," despite never having been accused of causing harm to anyone, let alone taking a life. Most of the people arrested with López Rivera were granted clemency by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, and released on parole. He advocated for the independence of Puerto Rico -- a break in the colonial ties between the island and the United States. The armed, white anti-government terrorists who are currently occupying federal land in the hopes of toppling the government in the Mulhear National refuge in Oregon have yet to fire one shot. Do you think any of them would ever be convicted of sedition, let alone serve 34 years in a federal penitentiary?

The double-standard is clear.

Other national and international organizations calling for López Rivera's release include the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas, the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Men and Women Religious, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the Service Employees International Union executive bureau (SEIU), American Federation of State, Councils, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the World Federation of Trade Unions and the Region of the Americas.

López Rivera is guardedly optimistic. Every Saturday, Puerto Rico's main newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, publishes letters from López Rivera to his granddaughter. Last November, he wrote:

“The future for me is something unpredictable…Puerto Rico has changed. So has the Chicago of my adolescence. Those nights when I stay awake thinking about my projects, I animate myself by telling myself that, at the end, I have survived 70 years and I have walked beneath the shadow of death many times. If a man has managed to survive this, how is he going to be afraid of the free air when it hits him in the face?”

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