Monday, 16 December, 2019

Puerto Rico militant leader emerges from 36 years in custody

Puerto Rico militant leader emerges from 36 years in custody Puerto Rico militant leader emerges from 36 years in custody
Debra Rodriguez | 23 May, 2017, 12:40

Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Puerto Rican nationalist who spent more than three decades behind bars for his role in a violent struggle for independence from the USA, will be celebrated as a hero upon his release from house arrest in Puerto Rico on Wednesday and honored in Chicago the following day. Lopez Rivera was a member of the leftist group FALN that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings across New York, Chicago and Washington, as well as in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and early '80s. He was never tied to specific bombings, which caused few injuries.

Wearing black jeans and a shirt decorated with a Puerto Rican flag pin, the 74-year-old greeted cheering supporters through a fence at his daughter's San Juan home before getting into a jeep.

Former President Barack Obama commuted Lopez Rivera's sentence, which was expected to expire in 2051, just three days before he left the White House in January, allowing the convicted felon to be freed on May 17, 2017.

A campaign to free Lopez over the years has drawn support from Pope Francis, former President Jimmy Carter and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

"We have to thank him for giving his life for our island", Nelson Cortes, a New York-based waiter who supports Puerto Rican independence, told the Associated Press news agency.

But others were less enthusiastic.

FALN's most notorious attack was a 1975 bombing that killed four people and wounded 60 at Fraunces Tavern, a landmark restaurant in New York's financial district.

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Among the events scheduled for Thursday was the official dedication of "Oscar Lopez Rivera Way" and a procession in Humboldt Park, a West Side Chicago neighborhood.

Lopez also spoke out about the massive cuts targeting the island's main public post-secondary education institution, the University of Puerto Rico, which has seen funding slashed as part of a harsh austerity plan to tackle the Puerto Rico's crippling debt, sparking widespread protests. But I like to work.

In this July 25, 1981, file photo, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera is driven to jail after his trial where he was convicted of seditious conspiracy in Chicago. A federal judge termed him an "unreconstructed revolutionary" and Lopez said Puerto Ricans should fight for their island's independence "by any means necessary". He served more than a decade in solitary confinement after a second conviction for attempting to escape.

Lopez held a news conference Wednesday hours after being released from house arrest after decades in custody.

Oscar Lopez Rivera has been under house arrest in Puerto Rico since February after serving 35 years in prison.

The United States seized Puerto Rico from Spain during the Spanish-American War.

Lopez Rivera also criticized the financial oversight board put in place previous year by U.S. Congress through the controversial law known as PROMESA to restructure the island's debt.

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