“I have faith in us being able to eradicate colonialism,” López said. “Let’s dare to live and let’s dare to struggle. Then we will live as a free people without any colonial chains.”
The 74-year-old political activist has been in prison for more than 35 years — over 12 in solitary confinement — because of his activities in support of independence for Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony.
Support for López’s freedom extends far beyond those who demand independence. Leaders of all the main religious denominations in Puerto Rico, as well as the local affiliates of the Democratic and Republican parties, all call for his release.
“I am asking the voices that are clamoring for his freedom in the public arena to continue,” said Archbishop Roberto González Nieves at the end of Christmas mass in San Juan last month.
Newly elected Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a leader of the Republican Party affiliate on the island, sent a letter to Obama Nov. 30 asking him to grant López clemency. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote Obama Dec. 13, encouraging him to release López.
In 1981 López was arrested and accused of being a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which took credit for several bombings in the U.S. of businesses with investments in Puerto Rico.
But U.S. prosecutors never presented any evidence that López was involved in the bombings or any other act of violence. Instead, the main charge against him was “seditious conspiracy.” Others arrested the year before on similar charges have all been released.
A birthday celebration in San Juan for López Jan. 6, attended by about 100 supporters and family members, was widely covered in the press in Puerto Rico. López’s daughter Clarisa read his letter at the event.
Rafael Cancel Miranda, who spent more than 25 years in jail in the U.S. for his activities in support of independence for the island, was the featured speaker at a similar event in Ponce.
The Three Kings Day Parade in Chicago was dedicated to López. Many lining the route chanted along with the members of a contingent in the New York Three Kings Day Parade carrying a banner that said “Free Oscar López.” Others gave thumbs up or raised clenched fists as it passed by.
López has received widespread union support, both in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO union federation, sent a letter to Obama in December, reiterating the federation’s support for his release.
Because of the depth of the capitalist economic crisis, made worse because of its colonial exploitation, thousands of Puerto Ricans leave the island every month. There are now more Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico.
“We can be 8 million strong,” López said in his letter, “uniting the Puerto Ricans of the diaspora with the Puerto Ricans in our small archipelago.”
Supporters of López’s fight are asking people to call the White House every Friday at (202) 456-1111 to press for his release.