Oscar Lopez Rivera, Patriot or terrorist?

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Oscar Lopez Rivera was born in 1943 in Puerto Rico. He served for the United States Armed Forces during the War of Vietnam being decorated by his value in combat. On his return from combat and as part of his reestablishment in society he joined the fight and defense of the rights of Puerto Ricans in Chicago, where he resided. He then stood out for being a communal organizer, as part of his commitment to the Puerto Rican people and his struggle to improve the living conditions for them, he participated in acts of civil disobedience and peaceful militancy.

In 1976, Lopez Rivera joins the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation (FALN). This group that was involved in more than 100 bombings in New York, Chicago, among other important cities. On January 24, 1975, this group claimed responsibility for the bombings that took place in Fraunces Tavern located in Manhattan, taking the lives of 4 people and injuring over 50. In the name of these attacks, the FALN became the first target of the United States Joint Task Force on Terrorism (JTTF) established in April 1980.

In 1981 Oscar Lopez was captured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Lopez Rivera was then sentenced to 55 years in prison in a federal prison under charges of ‘seditious conspiracy’ and for being part of the FALN who were considered to be a terrorist organization by US authorities. During the trial Oscar pleaded guilty to the crimes and admitted to being a “political prisoner” requesting to be protected by Protocol I of the Geneva Convention of 1949. Protocol that dictates that a prisoner of war can not be tried by a common criminal and his judgment must be in an international court. The United States government denied this request. After an alleged attempt to escape from Leavenworth prison, 15 years were added to his sentence, of which 12 were completely isolated.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton offered him and 13 other members of the FALN a conditional pardon which Lopez Rivera rejected. On June 18, 2012, at the UN (United Nations) Decolonization Committee, Cuba submitted a resolution to recognize the right to independence and self-determination of Puerto Rico and to release all independence prisoners. Resolution that was supported by Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and accepted by consensus in the committee. Same resolution that was ignored by the government of the United States. On January 17, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera to be released on May 17, 2017.

After his release, Oscar has made very important expressions besides defending himself from those who call him a terrorist. He has made statements such as that in FALN have two groups, those responsible for the bombs and the pacifists. Oscar said he found Puerto Rico worse than he expected, that the country needed to join the university protesters who fight for the rights of all and making allegations like “I do not have blood in my hands that is why I have my conscience clean”. Supported by artists like Calle 13, Andy Montañez, Jacobo Morales, as well as other personalities from Puerto Rico, Latin America and the world, for many he is a patriot and for others a terrorist.

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