Oscar López Returns to Puerto Rico

By Jessica Ríos Viner and Jose A. Delgado on February 9, 2017

Photo: Teresa Canino

Today political prisoner Oscar López Rivera returned to Puerto Rican soil where he will complete his sentence under house arrest that is to expire on May 17. He was accompanied on the trip by the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz and other politicians. Also at his side when he arrived in San Juan was his daughter Clarisa López Ramos and his younger brother Jose.

Lopez Rivera began his journey home when he was released in the morning from the Terre Haute (Indiana) Federal Prison, where he had been imprisoned for nearly half of the 35 years and eight months that he was incarcerated in the U.S. prison system. Lopez Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy charges because of his links with the Liberation Armed Forces (FALN), a clandestine group fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico.

According to sources Lopez Rivera will spend the last 97 days of his conviction under house arrest at the home of his daughter.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) formally left Lopez Rivera in the hands of New York Congressman Luis Gutierrez for his transfer and now Lopez Rivera, 74, will remain under the supervision until completing his sentence on May 17.

Close family members and his lawyer Jan Susler remained silent for the past 24 hours about unofficial reports that the transfer of Lopez Rivera would likely happen today after President Barack Obama commuted his sentence just prior to leaving office.

The first public announcement about this unexpected development appeared on the facebook page of New York State Representative Jose Rivera who said, “After so many years of fighting, Oscar Lopez Rivera is at the airport in route to Puerto Rico.”

More than one dozen people waited anxiously at the American Airlines terminal in San Juan for the arrival of the beloved Puerto Rican patriot but only a few got a glimpse of him. Benito de Jesus, carrying the flag of Lares, was one of them and he said Oscar looked calm and happy as he was taken out of the arrival area of the airport.

“I don’t care if I can’t see him today, I can wait”, said Nady Pacheco, who arrived at the airport along with his spouse and granddaughter.

“It is important he sees us here so he knows that he had an entire people fighting for his freedom and the people who supported him. He must know that there are many people in this country who will thank him forever for the sacrifice that he has made towards achieving  the independence of Puerto Rico and the years he suffered in prison”, he added.

After commuting his sentence, the BOP was obligated to transfer Lopez out of the Terre Haute prison complex if a space was found where he would be placed in a lower security facility or under house arrest as part of the process of reintegration into society. Mayor Cruz assured the authorities that not only would he be living in the house of his daughter Clarissa but that she had a community service job for him.

Lopez Rivera has not stepped on Puerto Rican soil since January 1975, when he was at a conference in Isabela. His attorney reminded everyone that although he was back in Puerto Rico he was still under the restrictions of the BOP including that there can be no celebration of his return and he is forbidden to speak to the media until May 17 when his sentence is complete.

Upon arrival at his new residence there were a few there to greet him with a sign that read,

“Puerto Rico embraces you, welcome Oscar”.

A man waiting said, “I want him to feel pride for the example that he gave to the country, when people believe in a common end, big things can happen.”

“He is a person who has experienced the injustices of a country that has submitted another country to colonialism. For me he is a National Hero and deserves the respect of all people from all ideologies.” he said.


Source: El Nueva Dia – translation Latinoamericano, North America Bureau