Oscar López Rivera

Oscar López Rivera is a Puerto Rican Nationalist who was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and various other offenses.[1] He was among the 16 Puerto Rican nationalists offered conditional clemency by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999, but he rejected the offer. His sister, Zenaida Lopez, said he refused the offer because on parole, he'd be in "prison outside prison."[1][2]

Contents

Early years and personal life

Oscar López Rivera was born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico on January 6, 1943. His family moved to the U.S. when he was nine years old. At the age of 14, he moved to Chicago to live with a sister. At age 18 he was drafted into the army and served in Viet Nam and awarded the Bronze Star. When he returned to Illinois from the war in 1967, he found that drugs, unemployment, housing, health care and education in the Puerto Rican community had reached dire levels and set to work in community organizations to improve the quality of life for his people.[3]

He was a well-respected community activist and an independence leader for many years prior to his arrest.[4] Oscar worked in the creation of both the Puerto Rican High School and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. He was also involved in the struggle for bilingual education in public schools and to force universities to actively recruit Latino students, staff, and faculty. He worked on ending discrimination in public utilities like Illinois Bell, People's Gas, and Commonwealth Edison.[3]

Oscar was one of the founders of the Rafael Cancel Miranda High School, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center. He was a community organizer for the Northwest Community Organization (NCO), ASSPA, ASPIRA and the 1st Congregational Church of Chicago. He helped to found FREE, a half-way house for convicted drug addicts, and ALAS, an educational program for Latino prisoners at Stateville Prison in Illinois.[5]

Seditious conspiracy

The U.S. Government describes Lopez Rivera as one of the leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), a Puerto Rican Nationalist group linked to more than 100 bombings and five deaths in the 1970s. Lopez Rivera will neither confirm nor deny his affiliation with the FALN and disowns any personal involvement in the bombing deaths.[6]

At his trial 1980-81, Lopez and the other Chicago-based FALN comrades were not tied to specific bombings. Instead, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy ("attempt to overthrow the government of the United States in Puerto Rico by force"), armed robbery, and lesser offenses.[7] Declaring his status as a prisoner of war, he refused to participate in the proceedings.[6]

None of the bombings of which they were convicted resulted in deaths or injuries.[8] Lopez Rivera was given a 70-year federal sentence for seditious conspiracy and other charges.[9] Among the other convicted Puerto Rican nationalists there were sentences of as long as 90 years in Federal prisons for offenses including sedition, possession of unregistered firearms, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, interference with interstate commerce by violence and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a crime.[8] None of those granted clemency were convicted in any of the actual bombings. Rather, they had been convicted on a variety of charges ranging from bomb making and conspiracy to armed robbery and firearms violations.[10] They were all convicted for sedition, the act of attempting to overthrow the Government of the United States in Puerto Rico by force.[9][11]

Human rights violations

There were reports of human rights violations against the FALN prisoners. The prisoners were placed in prisons far from their families, some were sexually assaulted by prison personnel, some were denied adequate medical attention, and others were kept in isolated underground prison cells for no reason. Amnesty International and the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Administration of Justice both criticized the conditions. The conditions were found to be in violation of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.[3] A federal judge also addressed his concerns in the case of Baraldine vs. Meese.

In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to escape and given an additional 15 years.[12] Currently Lopez Rivera is still incarcerated in the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, under conditions that are described as oppressive.[3] In 2006, the United Nations called for the release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners in United States prisons.[13]

Political prisoner

At the time of their arrest Lopez Rivera and the others declared themselves to be combatants in an anti-colonial war against the United States to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. domination and invoked prisoner of war status. They argued that the U.S. courts did not have jurisdiction to try them as criminals and petitioned for their cases to be handed over to an international court that would determine their status. The U.S. Government, however, did not recognize their request.[3][14]

The sentences received by Lopez Rivera and the other Nationalists were judged to be "out of proportion to the nationalists' offenses."[by whom?][8] Statistics showed their sentences were almost 20 times greater than sentences for similar offenses by the American population at large.[neutrality is disputed][3][15]

For many years, numerous national and international organizations criticized Lopez Rivera' incarceration categorizing it as political imprisonment. [16][17] Cases involving the release of other Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners have been categorized as cases of political prisoners, with some [18][19][20][21] being more vocal than others.[22][23][24]

Supporters of Lopez Rivera have accused the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons of isolating Lopez Rivera on the basis of his political beliefs.[25] For more than half of his 22 years in prison, Lopez Rivera has been held in solitary confinement in maximum security prisons in the United States.[6] Lopez's release date is scheduled for June 26, 2023.[26]

Lopez Rivera was denied parole in February 2011.[27]

The 12 convicted prisoners

On August 11, 1999, President Bill Clinton extended an offer of clemency to 14 of the Puerto Rican political prisoners convicted on February 18, 1981. Lopez Rivera refused the clemency offer.[28] Twelve accepted the offers and were subsequently released.[29] The twelve were:

  • Edwin Cortes, sentenced to 35 years in prison.
  • Elizam Escobar, sentenced to 60 years in prison.
  • Ricardo Jimenez, sentenced to 90 years in prison.
  • Adolfo Matos, sentenced to 70 years in prison.
  • Dylcia Noemi Pagan, sentenced to 55 years in prison.
  • Alicia Rodriguez, sentenced to 55 years in prison.
  • Ida Luz Rodriguez, sentenced to 75 years in prison.
  • Luis Rosa, sentenced to 75 years in prison.
  • Carmen Valentin, sentenced to 90 years in prison.
  • Alberto Rodriguez, sentenced to 35 years in prison.
  • Alejandrina Torres, sentenced to 35 years in prison.
  • Juan Enrique Segarra-Palmer, served an additional five years after clemency was granted and had his fine dropped. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison on October 4, 1985, and was released on January 25, 2004.[30]

References

  1. ^ a b John M. Broder (1999-11-08). "12 Imprisoned Puerto Ricans Accept Clemency Conditions". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9803E5DA163DF93BA3575AC0A96F958260. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  2. ^ Charles Babington (1999-09-11). "Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed From Prison". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/keyraces2000/stories/faln091199.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f ProLIBERTAD. ProLIBERTAD Campaign for the Freedom of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War: Arm the Spirit 30 October 1995.
  4. ^ James, Joy. Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy. Duke University Press, 2007. ISBN 0822339234. P.159
  5. ^ Rosales, Francisco. Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History. Arte Publico Press, 2006. ISBN 1558853472. P.159
  6. ^ a b c http://www.westword.com/1995-07-12/news/end-of-the-line/ Prendergast, Alan. End of the line. Denver Westword, July 12, 1995. Retrieved on 2008-11-21
  7. ^ Hanley, Charles. "Puerto Rican Inmate Has No Regrets For His Terrorist Actions" The Seattle Times, May 10, 1998. Retrieved on 2008-11-21
  8. ^ a b c "12 Imprisoned Puerto Ricans Accept Clemency Conditions" by John M. Broder. The New York Times September 8, 1999
  9. ^ a b United States Department of Justice. Office of the Pardon Attorney: Commutations of Sentences.
  10. ^ "Eleven Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed from Prison" CNN. September 10, 1999
  11. ^ "Puerto Rican Inmate Has No Regrets For His Terrorist Actions" by Charles J. Hanley. The Seattle Times May 10, 1998
  12. ^ James, Joy. Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy. Duke University Press, 2007. ISBN 0822339234. P.159
  13. ^ United Nations General Assembly. Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Calling on United States to Expedite Puerto Rican Self-determination Process: Draft Resolution Urges Probe of Pro-Independence Leader’s Killing, Human Rights Abuses; Calls for Clean-up, Decontamination of Vieques. June 12, 2006.(GA/COL/3138/Rev.1*). Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York. Special Committee on Decolonization, 8th & 9th Meetings. (Issued on 13 June 2006.)
  14. ^ The Puerto Rican movement: voices from the diaspora. By Andrés Torres. Temple University Press. 1998. Page 147.
  15. ^ The Puerto Rican movement: voices from the diaspora. By Andrés Torres. Temple University Press. 1998. Page 149.
  16. ^ Peoples Law Office. Puerto Rico.
  17. ^ "Eleven Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed from Prison" Cable News Network (CNN). September 10, 1999
  18. ^ United Nations General Assembly. Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Calling on United States to Expedite Puerto Rican Self-determination Process: Draft Resolution Urges Probe of Pro-Independence Leader’s Killing, Human Rights Abuses; Calls for Clean-up, Decontamination of Vieques. June 12, 2006.(GA/COL/3138/Rev.1*). Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York. Special Committee on Decolonization, 8th & 9th Meetings. (Issued on 13 June 2006.) The Approved Text reads, in part, "As in previous years, ...the Special Committee called on the President of the United States to release Puerto Rican political prisoners..." (page 1)
  19. ^ Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York. Guide to the Ruth M. Reynolds Papers: Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. August 1991 and December 2003. Updated 2005. Reviews Puerto Rico - U.S. relations, including cases of Puerto Rican political prisoners.
  20. ^ Vito Marcantonio, U.S. Congressman. In his August 5, 1939, speech before Congress titled Five Years of Tyranny. (Recorded in the Congressional Record. August 14, 1939.) In the words of Congressman Marcantonio, "There is no place in America for political prisoners...When we ask ourselves, 'Can it happen here?' the Puerto Rican people can answer, 'It has happened in Puerto Rico.' as he spoke about the treatment of Puerto Rican Nationalist and U.S. prisoner Pedro Albizu Campos. Retrieved August 28, 2010.
  21. ^ "Puerto Rican community celebrates release of political prisoner" Chicago Sun-Times. Report states, "Chicago's Puerto Rican community celebrates the release of political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres..."
  22. ^ "Puerto Rican Nationalist Sentenced to 7 Years for 1983 Wells Fargo Robbery in Conn." Fox News Network. May 26, 2010
  23. ^ "Carlos Alberto Torres, Puerto Rican Nationalist Imprisoned In Illinois For 30 Years, Returns Home To Puerto Rico" The Huffington Post July 28, 2010
  24. ^ Lolita Lebrón, Puerto Rican Nationalist, Dies at 90" by Douglas Martin. The New York Times August 3, 2010
  25. ^ "The Circle Game" Prendergast, Alan. The Denver Westworld. Retrieved on 11-12-2008
  26. ^ BOP
  27. ^ http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/latinamerica/7434556.html
  28. ^ TLAHUI.
  29. ^ PrisonActivist.org
  30. ^ PR Herald



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