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Vol. 81/No. 1      January 2, 2017

(front page)

Build actions to demand US gov’t free Oscar López

NEW YORK — More than 450 people attended a Dec. 17 concert at the Hostos Community College Center for the Arts and Culture here in the Bronx dedicated to Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. López has been in jail in the U.S. for more than 35 years for his activities in support of independence for the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico. Many concertgoers were just learning about his frame-up and vindictive treatment by the U.S. government, including more than 12 years in solitary confinement.

The campaign to win the release of López is growing stronger, with more activities planned in the U.S. and Puerto Rico in coming weeks. These actions increase the political cost the U.S. rulers are paying for keeping him in prison.

In less than a month more than 108,000 people signed a petition on the White House website calling on President Barack Obama to release López before leaving office Jan. 20. In an email sent to all the signers Dec. 14, the White House said that while the president has the power to grant clemency, Obama “declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition.”

López was arrested in 1981 and accused of being a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which in the mid-1970s took credit for bombing U.S. businesses with investments in Puerto Rico. But U.S. prosecutors had no proof that López was involved in any act of violence. Instead, their main charge against him was “seditious conspiracy.”

In fact, in the 1960s and ’70s dozens of violent attacks, including assassinations, were carried out against Puerto Rican independentistas and supporters of the Cuban Revolution in Puerto Rico, Miami and other cities by counterrevolutionary groups with the tacit approval of U.S. cop agencies.

In one sign of the widespread support for López’s release, Jenniffer González, newly elected resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, the nonvoting representative of Puerto Rico to the U.S. House of Representatives, was one of those who signed the petition. González had previously opposed pardoning López.

González, of the New Progressive Party, which is affiliated to the Republican Party in the U.S., says that she now supports freeing López because his sentence was “disproportionately long and unjust.” López, now 73 years old, is serving a 70-year sentence.

López had been offered clemency by President Bill Clinton in 1999 along with more than a dozen other Puerto Rican independence fighters in jail on similar charges. López turned the offer down because two independentistas, Carlos Alberto Torres and Haydée Beltrán, were excluded. Torres was released in 2010 and Beltrán in 2009.

Adolfo Matos, one of those pardoned by Clinton, told the Militant by phone from Lajas, Puerto Rico, Dec. 17 that “Oscar didn’t want anybody left behind.”

“It’s not thanks to Clinton that we were freed,” Matos said. “But because of the pressure of the Puerto Rican people.”

John MacElwee, director of the Center for the Arts and Culture, introduced the concert, a celebration of Puerto Rican Flag Day. He was joined on stage by New York state Assemblyman José Rivera, Ana López from the NY Coordinator to Free Oscar López, and several members of 35 Women For Oscar. The concert featured renowned Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera and Nelson González and his All Star Band.

When the band played the revolutionary version of La Borinqueña, Puerto Rico’s national anthem, the audience stood up. “Wake up from your dream, it’s time to fight,” they sang in Spanish, many with their fists in the air. “Freedom, freedom!”

Oscar’s brother José López was scheduled to speak at the concert but his flight was canceled due to inclement weather.

“The concert was symbolic of the historical ties of Cuban and Puerto Rican solidarity,” he said by phone from Chicago Dec. 19. “The Puerto Rican patriots who adopted the flag 121 years ago were also part of the Cuban Revolutionary Party.

“It’s important to make this point because Oscar continues to struggle for Puerto Rican independence. Cuba gained its independence but Puerto Rico has not.”

Labor unions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. are also an important component of the campaign to win López’s freedom. They include the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and many others. Millions of workers in the U.S. from personal experience or through friends and family know how the so-called justice system works and when they hear the facts, want to back the fight.
Related articles:
Upcoming events for Oscar López
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