Oscar Lopez Rivera, Puerto Rican Political Prisoner

I don’t have any blood on my hands. I haven’t victimized anyone. And I’ve devoted most of my life serving a just and noble cause and struggling to help make this world a better and more just one.

— Oscar Lopez Rivera, in a Febuary 2011 letter

For over 33 years Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera has been imprisoned in the United States for his activities in support of freedom and independence for his country, the island of Puerto Rico.

Oscar Lopez Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1981 and accused of seditious conspiracy. He was later sentenced to 70 years in prison. He has now served 33 years in prison, 12 and a half years of that in total isolation. These harsh conditions did not break Oscar’s spirit, which they were seemingly intended to do. He remains a strong and principled man despite his long ordeal. But despite the lengthy time served Oscar still remains in prison.

Oscar was not accused or convicted of causing injury or taking life. During his presidency, President Bill Clinton stated that Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence was disproportionately lengthy and that Oscar should be released in September of 2009. Oscar’s co-defendants were released as a result of the 1999 Clinton clemency and are now productive, law-abiding citizens, fully integrated into civil society. The other of Oscar’s remaining co-defendants, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres was released in July 2010.

Oscar has the support of a broad section of Puerto Rico’s civil society, as well as the Puerto Rican and Latino communities across the USA. The decision to keep him in prison ignores the express will of the Puerto Rican people and those who believe in justice and human rights, including the tens of thousands of voices supporting his immediate release. Among these many ignored voices are, the Puerto Rican Governor, members of legislatures of the United States Congress; the state legislatures of New York, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania; the city councils and county boards of many locales in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; the mayors of many towns in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including the Association of Mayors of Puerto Rico; bar associations including the Puerto Rico Bar Association, the National Lawyers Guild and the American Association of Jurists; clergy and religious organizations, including the Ecumenical Coalition representing every religious denomination in Puerto Rico; human rights advocates, academics, students, artists, actors, singers such as Ricky Martin, sports people, community organizations and workers.

And also gathered international support for his release from figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and organizations such as Amnesty International. Oscar Lopez Rivera’s release has also been demanded by 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners, Coretta Scott King, President Jimmy Carter, many American politicians, as well as an international coalition of human rights, religious, labour and business leaders.

The United States government consistently demands that other governments, in order to establish their democratic credentials, release political prisoners in their custody. The US’s conduct is totally inconsistent with what the U.S. demands of other governments. The White House has recently proposed to initiate a process of to resolve the status of Puerto Rico. A true process of self-determination under international law should be accompanied by the goodwill gesture of releasing of political prisoners. This seems such an essential step towards a positive resolution to the Puerto Rican situation.

Oscar is now 70 years old and over 33 years is more than enough time served. Another 15 years or more in prison is utterly cruel and excessive. Together we can make a difference to ending this gross injustice. Help publicize this worthy cause and support the ongoing international campaign demanding the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. We need everyone to continue to write letters, post on your websites, Facebook and tweet. We need to continue to apply the pressure. We can make a difference and your calls and letters will have an impact. Please act to help Oscar. Request that President Obama grant Oscar clemency and pardon him.

“His sentence, far too excessive, violates the most elemental principles of humanity, sensitivity and justice,” said Puerto Rican Governor and Attorney Alejandro Padilla on October 2014.

Steven Katsineris is a freelance writer of political commentary, short stories, poetry and articles. His main focus is liberation struggles, political prisoners, the environment and other social justice issues. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia. Read other articles by Steven.