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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 81/No. 23      June 12, 2017



Available Online
(front page)

Join Oscar López in fight against US colonial rule

Media slanders target Puerto Rico freedom struggle

El Vocero/Carlos Rivera Giusti
Students in San Juan, Puerto Rico, protest Washington’s moves to make Puerto Rican workers and youth pay island’s debts May 26. Colonial government is slashing funding for schools.
NEW YORK — The New York Daily News, the New York Post and other major news media are at the forefront of a campaign here slandering independence fighter Oscar López, who was released May 17 after nearly 36 years in U.S. prisons.

Charging that López is an “unrepentant terrorist,” the media bosses are demanding the National Puerto Rican Day Parade committee in New York reverse its decision to honor him as a “National Freedom Hero” and dis-invite López from being one of the marchers at the head of the June 11 parade.

There will also be a “Contingent for Oscar and Puerto Rico’s Decolonization” in the parade. Since his release López has been speaking at meetings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to advance the fight for the colony’s independence.

Most of the parade’s corporate sponsors — including Goya, Corona, the Daily News, Univisión, AT&T, the Yankees baseball team, Coca-Cola and Jet Blue — have pulled out, as has Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other capitalist politicians, along with organizations of Latino cops and firefighters.

Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of New York, said in a May 31 letter sent to a number of area newspapers that the real aim of the anti-López clamor “is to divert attention from the growing discussion on how to end Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. colony and Wall Street’s plunder of the island’s resources.”

“Working people across New York should join the Puerto Rican Day Parade,” he said.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito released a statement signed by 35 elected officials, including a large number of City Council members, commending the parade committee for inviting López.

The Post let slip that López’s political views, not his alleged “terrorism,” are behind their slander campaign. In a May 27 editorial the Post falsely claims “in referendum after referendum, Puerto Rico’s voters have overwhelmingly rejected independence.” The paper reports that Puerto Rico’s colonial governor Ricardo Rosselló told the paper that statehood is going to win “more than 70 percent of voters in the island’s next plebiscite — which ironically comes June 11, the same day as the parade.”

The Post conveniently forgot to report that just about every political party and labor union on the island is calling for a boycott of the plebiscite, except for Rosselló’s New Progressive Party. The boycott was called after the U.S. Justice Department made the government of Puerto Rico change the choices in the plebiscite, further exposing the island’s status as a U.S. colony.

López, a Vietnam veteran, was arrested in 1981. Like other independentistas who were arrested the year before and accused of belonging to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), López refused to recognize the authority of the court, saying he was a prisoner of war.

U.S. prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of a turncoat informer, Alfredo Méndez. López presented proof that Méndez was promised help getting rid of a prior conviction from the FBI, Secret Service and then President Ronald Reagan personally. Méndez disappeared into “witness protection.”

López refuses to condemn any form of struggle against colonial exploitation and oppression, but points out that he was never charged with being involved in any bombing or act of violence. The main charge against him was for “seditious conspiracy,” that is conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.

The Daily News has tried to link López to the bombing of the Fraunces Tavern on Jan. 24, 1975, claimed by the FALN, where four people died.

“I respect human life and I had nothing to do with what happened at Fraunces Tavern,” López told Univisión reporter Jorge Ramos, noting that if the government had any evidence whatsoever, they would have charged him. López was in Puerto Rico when the bombing happened.

López pointed out that two weeks before the tavern was bombed, a bomb was exploded at a peaceful independence rally in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, killing two people, but the big business media never mentions it.

The FBI has admitted to collecting more than 1.5 million pages of files on tens of thousands of supporters of Puerto Rican independence over the last 80 years. A 1961 memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover refers to U.S. government “efforts to disrupt their activities and compromise their effectiveness.”

Wide range of views
At the annual Loisaida Festival May 28, a traditional celebration of Puerto Rican culture on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, there were a wide range of views on the controversy.

“That’s fine that he’s out of prison,” said Inocencio Pacheco, a small businessman. “But don’t honor him. He did something or he wouldn’t have been in jail for 36 years.”

“There is a lot of disinformation out there,” letter carrier Julio Rodríguez Aponte said. “López was not found guilty of bombing anyone.”

“A lot of Puerto Ricans in New York don’t know our own history,” said Elliott Ray. Ray, who is unemployed, said that like other young people he started looking up things on his own and he’s now “more pro-independence.”

Retired worker José Concepción said, “Goya, Corona, they all make a lot of money off of us Puerto Ricans Who are they to say who we should honor?”

Fernando Ponce Laspina, a spokesperson for the NY Coordinator for Oscar, said supporters of López are taking advantage of the controversy to build the decolonization contingent at the parade.

“We have to take the slander campaign seriously,” said Laspina. “But it’s going to be a good parade. It will be more about the people, not the corporations.”

After the parade, López will continue touring and speaking out in support of independence for Puerto Rico. In the fall he plans to visit revolutionary Cuba and thank the Cuban people for their support against U.S. colonial oppression and his fight for freedom.

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