- After the 1898 Spanish-American War, the US took over
the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, Hawaii, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic,
Canal Zone, assorted other territories, and Puerto Rico. On September 29,
its Governor-General, Manuel Macias y Casado (a Spanish general), ceded
control to Washington, its current status today as a colony.
- In 1966, then University of Puerto Rico economics associate,
Dr. Antonio J. Gonzales said:
- "The Puerto Rican Independence Party bases its struggle
in favor of the independence of Puerto Rico on the conviction that we continue
to be a (US) colony, thus being denied (our) right to freedom and sovereignty."
- After taking over in 1898, America "never granted
Puerto Ricans the total control of their lives and destiny. Sovereign powers
have never been transferred to us in order to be able to decide in all
those areas that affect the collective life of our nation."
- For over 112 years, America's had total control, Puerto
Ricans virtually none, forced to "accept the dispositions of laws
imposed" by a colonial power. In its relationship with America, Puerto
Rico is called "Estado Libre Asociado" (Free Associated State
or Commonwealth). Under international law, it's a colony, seeking independence.
Therein lies the roots of its struggle, Oscar Lopez Rivera imprisoned for
- A collective 1981 statement by Puerto Rican Independentistas,
convicted of "seditious conspiracy," said the following:
- "Our position remains clear: Puerto Rico is a nation
intervened, militarily conquered and colonized by the United States....We
are prisoners of war captured by the enemy. Our actions have always been
and continue to be in the nature of fighting a war of independence, a war
of national liberation....The US interventionist government has absolutely
no right, no say so whatsoever in regards to Puerto Rico, ourselves, or
any Puerto Rican prisoner of war. The US interventionist government has
only one choice....and that is to GET OUT! It is our right to regain and
secure our national sovereignty. Nothing will stand in the way of achieving
- The struggle continues, Rivera one of its victims. The
web site prolibertadweb.com calls him and others like him:
- "workers and professionals, students and teachers,
community organizers, artists, mothers, and fathers of families. They are
fighters (for) Puerto Rico's Independence and social justice." They
reject colonization and exploitation. They're committed activists for
justice, struggling to end it.
- Each year for decades, the UN Decolonization Committee
approved a draft resolution for Puerto Rican independence, the latest one
on June 21:
- "calling on the Government of the United States
to expedite a process that would allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise
fully their right to self-determination and independence, and for the General
Assembly formally to consider the situation concerning Puerto Rico, which
the world body had not formerly taken up since the Territory's removal
from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 1953."
- "....a majority of petitioners expressed dissatisfaction
today with the commonwealth's treatment by the United States, arguing that
the administering Power was hampering Puerto Rican decolonization initiatives
and those of civil society....(America) continue(s) acting as a colonizing
Power over a country with its own cultural identity."
- Background on Rivera
- Born in 1943 in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, he moved
to America at age 12, then two years later to Chicago to live with his
sister. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he returned home to his Puerto Rican
community, plagued by unemployment, drugs, police brutality, and dire levels
of healthcare, education, and other essential social services - issues
he was determined to address.
- He helped create the Puerto Rican High School and Cultural
Center. He co-founded the Rafael Cancel Miranda High School (now called
Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School). He worked for public school bilingual
education, for universities to admit more Latino students and hire Latino
faculty and staff, and for Chicago area corporations, like Illinois Bell,
People's Gas and Commonwealth Edison, to end discriminatory hiring.
- He became an organizer for the Northwest Community Organization
(NCO), ASSPA, ASPIRA, and Chicago's First Congregational Church. He also
helped found FREE, a half-way house for convicted drug addicts, and ASAS,
an educational program for Latino prisoners at Illinois' Stateville Prison.
- He also worked for Puerto Rican independence. In 1974,
he helped organize the committee to "Free the Five" (Rafael Cancel
Miranda, Irwin Flores, Oscar Collazao, Lolita Lebron, and Andres Figueroa
Cordero). In 1975, he was forced underground with other comrades after
the Justice Department named him an FALN leader (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion
Nacional - Armed Forces of National Liberation).
- On May 10, 2001, FBI Director Louis Freeh described the
organization as follows to the Senate Committees on Appropriations, Armed
Services, and Select Committee on Intelligence, under the heading: "Left-wing
and Puerto Rican extremist groups," saying:
- "....left-wing (domestic terrorists) generally profess
a revolutionary socialist doctrine and view themselves as protectors of
the people against the 'dehumanizing effects' of capitalism and imperialism.
They aim to bring about change in the United States through revolution
rather than through the established political process."
- "Terrorist groups (like FALN), seeking to secure
Puerto Rican independence from the United States through violent means,
represent one of the remaining active vestiges of left-wing terrorism....they
view....acts of terrorism as a means by which to draw attention to their
desire for independence....Acts of terrorism continue to be perpetrated
(by) violent" separatist groups like FALN.
- Rivera's Arrest and Imprisonment
- On May 29, 1981, he was arrested, the FBI calling him
one of America's most feared fugitives. Accused of being an FALN leader,
he neither confirmed or denied it, affirming only his nonviolent activism.
At trial, he refused to participate, declaring himself a "prisoner
- In 1981, he was convicted of armed robbery, miscellaneous
charges, and seditious conspiracy - sedition pertaining to actions to incite
insurrection or rebellion; conspiracy by working with others to achieve
- Initially sentenced to 55 years, 15 more were added in
1988, based on spurious charges of participating in a conspiracy to escape,
that sentence to begin when the original one ends.
- In 1999, the Clinton administration offered him and 11
other Puerto Rican nationalists clemency. He declined, saying it required
him to serve 10 more years with good conduct. Had he accepted, he'd have
been free a year ago.
- His sister, Zenaida Lopez, said he refused because on
parole, he'd be in "prison outside prison." Incarcerated at Federal
Correctional Institution (FCI) Terre Haute, IN, July 27, 2027 is his scheduled
release date unless paroled and accepts or gets unconditional clemency
- Punitive Sentencing and Treatment
- The "ProLIBERTAD campaign for the freedom of Puerto
Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war" called sentences given
"Puerto Rican patriots excessive and punitive." On average, men
got 70.8 years, women 72.8, 19 times longer than average in the year they
were sentenced, real criminals faring much better.
- For example, from 1966 - 1985, average murder sentences
were 22.7 years; rape, 12.5 years, and arms violations 12. Only 12.8% of
all federal prisoners got over 20 years. Most often, only repeat offenders
get longer sentences. No Puerto Rican "patriot" had a prior record
at time of arrest.
- Worse still, they've been harshly treated in prison,
in violation of UN Minimum Uniform Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners
(UNSMRTR), Rule A1 6(1). They've been held far from families despite facilities
closer to home. Some have been sexually assaulted, Alejandrina Torres attacked
in three different prisons, in one case by prison guards and a male lieutenant.
She was then held in solitary confinement for complaining.
- They've been denied adequate medical care. Some have
been held in underground confinement, Rivera, in 1993, describing his treatment
at Marion, IL maximum security as follows:
- "I am enclosed in a cell that is 8 feet wide by
9 feet long on an average of 22 hours each day. Today while I write this
letter, I have been 36 hours without going out and tomorrow if they do
not take us out it will have been three days without moving from this same
space. In this little space I have everything. From eating my meals to
taking care of my needs. So it is my dining room and latrine at the same
time. My bed is a slab of cement. And the whole cell is painted the same
dead yellow color. From an aesthetic point of view, it is as attractive
as a jail for zoo animals."
- In 1987, Amnesty International (AI) condemned Marion
- "In Marion, violations of the (UN) Minimum Standard
Rules (for treating prisoners) are common. There is almost no rule in the
Minimum Standard Rules that is not broken in one form or another."
- In 1988, AI called conditions in Lexington, KY's Maximum
Security Unit for women "deliberately and gratuitously oppressive."
- The same holds for all federal and state maximum security
facilities and many others, prisoners routinely abused, especially political
ones. Earlier articles explained, accessed through the following links:
- From 1986 - 1998, Rivera was held in punitive maximum
security confinement, and remained in max facilities until 2008. Only then
was he transferred to a medium security prison on condition he report every
two hours to corrections staff, an unheard of stipulation. Currently at
FCI Terre Haute, his mailing address is:
- Oscar Lopez Rivera
- FCI Terre Haute
- PO Box 33
- Terre Haute, IN 47808
- A Final Comment
- In early January 2011, likely the first week, Rivera
will appear before the US Parole Commission after nearly 30 years in prison.
Supporters are urged to download, print and sign the attached letter and
mail it to the following address:
- Chairman Isaac Fulwood, Jr.
- US Parole Commission
- 5550 Friendship Blvd.
- Suite 420
- Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286
- In addition, the National Boricua Human Rights Network
urges signers to email@example.com so they can keep
track of supportive letters.
- "Together," they say, "we can help free
Oscar Lopez Rivera!"
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour
on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and
Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.