Hundreds March Demanding Release Of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner

Oscar López Rivera's daughter, Clarissa Lopez, marches with Rep. Nydia Velazquez. Puerto Ricans are rallying through the streets of Harlem asking for President Obama  to release Rivera who is a political prisoner. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Oscar López Rivera’s daughter, Clarissa Lopez (left), marches with Rep. Nydia Velazquez (right). Puerto Ricans rallied through the streets of East Harlem asking President Obama to release the political prisoner. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

With shouts of “Freedom for Oscar,” a march on May 30 on Harlem’s 125th Street demanded the liberation of Oscar López Rivera, the Puerto Rican political prisoner convicted in 1981 on sedition charges. In front of several groups, elected officials and community leaders marched in support, and according to police estimates, more than 700 people gathered at 106th Street between Third and Lexington avenues.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez said to El Diario that the United States can’t give lessons of democracy and reconciliation to the people of Puerto Rico. “Nelson Mandela and George Washington fought for freedom and reconciliation in their countries, just as Oscar did. He was never found guilty of murdering anyone. He was just accused of seditious conspiracy. He is also a decorated war veteran for his fight in Vietnam.”

Alongside the congresswoman was the prisoner’s daughter Clarisa López Ramos, 44, who said that her father should never have been incarcerated. “He does not have blood on his hands. He has spent almost 40 years out of the homeland where he was born. I grew up without him, and so did my daughter, who is 24. My goal is for him to go back home, and President Obama can make it possible.”

López said that neither her family nor her dad regret rejecting the pardon offered by President Bill Clinton in 1999. “He did not want to leave behind two colleagues that had not been offered the release.” Sadly, and paradoxically, those two colleagues were liberated in 2010, but López remains in custody.

Assembly member Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) said that it is time for López to leave prison. “This president has released people who have committed much more horrible crimes, or people who have been in Guantánamo.”

Crespo said that many of the issues for which López fought are still relevant on the Caribbean island. “There are federal policies that make, for example, reimbursements for health services like Medicaid and Medicare lower than in other states. It is a demand that has been made for many years and Congress in Washington is just ignoring it. Furthermore, the millionaires on the island enjoy unjustified tax relief while the rest have to pay more in sales tax.”

Adolfo Mattos, 65, was another political prisoner that was captured in the same operation as López. He spent 19 years in prison for conspiracy charges. Now he works on the Lajas City Council. “Oscar must be liberated already. His spirit has been broken enough. Every day that he spends under the government custody is another day in which human rights are violated.”

Ricardo Jiménez, 59, who was incarcerated between 1980 and 1999 and was released by the clemency of president Clinton, now works for a Puerto Rican cultural centre in Chicago. “He remained there because this is how he is. He did not want to leave anyone behind. That’s his sense of humanity.”

The march made a turn on Lexington Avenue until 106th Street, and then occupied almost the whole area between Lexington and Third avenues. Several speakers spoke from a stand.

Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito said that is was a very emotional day, as she demanded López’s release. “It is through solidarity that we are going to get him out, and I will do everything in my power to make it possible.”

Bronx congressman José Serrano said that, through his suffering, Oscar López Rivera has achieved something unique for the unity of the Puerto Rican cause. “Some killers have had lesser sentences. Obama: You have the power to make it happen. These people know about your suffering and sacrifice.”

Go to El Diario for more photos from the march through El Barrio.

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