Statement of Juan Cartagena In Support of the National Puerto Rican Parade Recognizing Oscar Lopez Rivera

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 22, 2017

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

Throughout the last six years LatinoJustice PRLDEF supported the commutation of the disproportionate criminal sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera. His original sentence of 55 years for conspiracy to commit sedition and, subsequently, 15 additional years for conspiracy to escape were both grossly disproportionate with other sentences emitted by federal courts at the time. With over 35 years of incarceration, 12 of them in solitary confinement, we easily concluded that the only purpose of jailing Lopez Rivera was retribution, pure and simple. Given his age and the inordinate length of the sentence it was equally clear that he was sentenced for his political beliefs.

Now that President Obama commuted his sentence – an act that was the goal of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans from all political parties and ideologies – it seems that for some people, Oscar should just bide his time in silence. That is absurd given how he has stuck to his principles to decolonize Puerto Rico through independence and has spoken in favor of human life.

Those who continue to paint Lopez Rivera with the actions taken by others ignore that he was never charged, let alone convicted, of any act of violence. In this country guilt by association cannot be countenanced. Oscar did his time, continued to apply his principles, and holds no rancor. Like many others in the Puerto Rican community he deserves to be heard – and recognized. Accordingly, we support the recognition he is receiving in New York City in June.

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