Rep. Gutierrez: "It's Time" to Release Oscar López Rivera

                                                             Oscar Lopez Rivera and Rep. Luis Gutierrez



When Congressman Luis Gutierrez was a teenager in Puerto Rico, he became involved in the independence movement for his home country. It’s a battle he’s taken all the way to his job in Washington, where he represents Illinois’ 4th District in Chicago.
He brought a bit of that movement to Real Art Ways in Hartford last week. During an interview we recorded for WNPR’s Where We Live, Gutierrez took time from his impassioned pitch for immigration reform to mention a key symbol of the struggle for independence. “There is somebody in jail who has sacrificed a lot so that Puerto Ricans can live freer,” Gutierrez told the crowd. “Oscar López Rivera is the longest (held) political prisoner in the United States of America. And I’m going to continue to work with everybody here until Oscar returns home to his community. He believes in independence and the freedom of his nation. It’s time he be released from jail, too.”
López Rivera has been jailed for 32 years and charged with “seditious conspiracy” in connection with his involvement in the Armed Forces of National Liberation (or FALN), a Puerto Rican separatist group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings.
In 1999 López Rivera refused to accept an offer to commute his sentence from President Bill Clinton because the deal did not include two fellow activists. López Rivera has been called a terrorist by some, but has claimed that the charges against him were strictly political. He was never tied directly to any bombings and President Clinton, in making the offer, said the sentences were “out of proportion to the nationalists’ offenses.”
In the midst of my interview with Gutierrez, conducted in front of a mostly Hispanic crowd, we were surprised to learn that López Rivera had called in to listen to the congressman speak. The two men share an intertwined personal story. Gutierrez, the politician, was raised in Chicago in the 1960s, and was taken by his parents as a teen to live in San Sebastián in the Puerto Rican hills, where he became involved in the independence movement. López Rivera was born in San Sebastián and later moved to Chicago where he later became involved in the local FALN chapter.
The prisoner’s plight has become an important issue again in Puerto Rico, with a march scheduled for November 23. And it comes one year after a controversial and confusing referendum vote in the country that provided no real clarity on how Puerto Ricans view the possibility of U.S. statehood, independence, or a continuation of their commonwealth status.
Photo: Credit and Official Photo, Office of Luis Gutierrez
WNPR is a media partner of, MAssLatinoNews and RILatinoNews


8 thoughts on “Rep. Gutierrez: "It's Time" to Release Oscar López Rivera

  1. Dear Partners,
    Join The First Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico on Saturday, March 22, 2014, on the Abolition of Slavery Day, to peacefully protest for the decolonization of Puerto Rico and the release of our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. It is the perfect day to protest the enslavement of Puerto Rico by the government of the United States.
    We will march from the Roosevelt Avenue Urban Train Station at 2 PM to the United States Court in Puerto Rico on Chardón Street in Hato Rey.
    If you belong to any particular group, feel free to bring your flags and signs to our protest. We want it to be a collective effort involving everyone who believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity and a threat to world peace. We need to have as many people as possible, because those who practice or accept colonialism don’t believe in justice for all!
    Un abrazo,

  2. Dear Partner,
    Now that the First Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico is history, we can now begin to work on making an even bigger success of The First Oscar Mandela Protest in New York City. This year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City a week before our protest will be dedicated to our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.
    On Monday, June 23, 2014, the United Nations (UN) will be discussing again Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States. The UN is in its third decade trying to eradicate colonialism from the world, because of the belief that it constitutes a threat to world peace. Since this date is a week later than usual, our committee decided to have 2 protests this year.
    On the Monday, June 16, 2014, the day after Fathers’ Day, we will have our first protest in the park across from the UN on 46th Street and First Avenue from 8 AM to 5 PM to show the world that we too believe that colonialism is a crime against humanity. On the same day of the hearing, Monday June 23, we will have the second one. We will have a press conference in New York City to inform the public of the latest details of these event. We will need as many people at the protest as possible to make the government of the United States (US) comply with the 32 UN resolutions asking the US to decolonize immediately Puerto Rico. After this many resolutions, it is obvious that the US does not want to.
    President Obama recently showed the government of the United States’ hypocrisy about human rights. In his memorial ceremony speech, he had only praise for Nelson Mandela. He, however, has refused, despite the enormous pressure from Puerto Rico and the rest of the world, to release from prison Oscar López Rivera who is doing exactly what Mandela did. Oscar has already spent 6 more years in prison than the 27 that Mandela served. The US is happy when other countries decolonize their colonies, but the US wants to keep hers. What kind of democracy is this? Obviously, those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.
    Please tell your friends about this important protest for Oscar López Rivera’s release from prison, and to achieve what he has spent his life on, the decolonization of Puerto Rico.
    We will have a sheet of paper so that whoever who wants to get involved in the planning of this yearly permanent event in New York City can provide us with your contact information. If you wish, you can also email me right now at
    We look forward to greeting old and new partners in our struggle to provide real justice for all!
    José M López Sierra
    Because, rights are not requested, they are demanded!

  3. Dear Partner,
    After the approval of the 33rd United Nations’ resolution by consensus on June 23, 2014 asking the United States (US) to immediately decolonize of Puerto Rico, we should work together to force the United States government to comply with it.
    The facts that the United States government has maintained Puerto Rico as its colony for 116 years, has had Oscar López Rivera in prison for 33 years for fighting for Puerto Rico decolonization, and has ignored 33 UN resolutions to decolonize Puerto Rico, confirm that the US government has no intentions of ever decolonizing Puerto Rico. Therefore, we need to form a tsunami of people to force the US to comply with the 33 resolutions.
    We should peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until we achieve our goal. The first one will be a march up to the US Courthouse in Puerto Rico on the Abolition of Slavery Day on March 22. The second will be another march in Puerto Rico on a day before the UN’s Puerto Rico decolonization hearing. The third one will be a protest in New York City on the same day the UN holds its Puerto Rico decolonization hearing.
    These 3 protests are indispensable, because those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.
    José M López Sierra
    Comité Timón del Pueblo
    United Partners for the Decolonization of Puerto Rico

  4. Dear Partner,
    Since the United Nations determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity, there is no longer a need for plebiscites. The solution is to give Puerto Rico her sovereignty.
    But being the United States government does not want to, it continues to advocate the use of plebiscites to find out what Puerto Ricans want. Even if 100% of Puerto Ricans would want to continue being a US colony, Puerto Rico would still be obligated to accept her sovereignty to then decide what she wants to do.
    The only thing these plebiscites are good for is to divide Puerto Ricans. A Puerto Rican didn’t invade us to make us a colony. When will we understand that we need to unite?
    This is why we must peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until Puerto Rico is decolonized!
    José M López Sierra

  5. Puerto Rico will never be decolonized via the electoral process
    There are many Puerto Ricans who think that Puerto Rico could be decolonized through Puerto Rico elections. That is why, some believe that the solution is to make political alliances with parties, movements and non- affiliated citizens to achieve our decolonization. Others believe that we must amend or change the elections laws to achieve this goal. That is impossible!
    Everything that happens in Puerto Rico is because the United States government wants it. That is why Puerto Rico has been a US colony for the past 116 years. During all that time, Puerto Ricans who have wanted to decolonize Puerto have been either killed or incarcerated by the US government. The best current example of this is our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.
    Oscar has been imprisoned by the US government for the past 33 years. A dozen of these 33 years have been in solitary confinement. International law considers this level of solitary confinement as torture. This is why many Puerto Ricans are afraid of independence for Puerto Rico. Under international law, Oscar has a right to do what he did. Moreover, any colony has the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize herself.
    The purpose of Puerto Rico elections is to make it appear that we live in a democracy. Because we are not, that is why more Puerto Ricans live away than on their island. Puerto Rico does not have the sovereignty she needs to meet the needs of Puerto Ricans, because the government of the United States has usurped it. Therefore, it is the US government that is the criminal!
    Although the United States controls the United Nations (UN), Puerto Rico stands a better opportunity to decolonize herself there. Almost 200 countries make up the UN, and a great majority of them favor Puerto Rico decolonization. By using this international forum, Puerto Rico would put the US government in the difficult position to have to explain why it does want to return her sovereignty.
    This is why the best way to decolonize Puerto is to boycott the Puerto Rico elections, and protest to have the UN manage the decolonization process.

  6. Why does Puerto Rico have a higher voter turnout than USA?
    Puerto Ricans have a voter turnout of about 80%. The United States (US) citizens have a voter turnout of about 50%. What accounts for this 30 % disparity? Could it be that Puerto Rican believe in democracy more than US mainland citizens?
    Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States since 1898. Since that time, Puerto Ricans who have wanted to decolonize their country have been either assassinated or imprisoned. Many Puerto Ricans are terrified of independence for Puerto Rico as a result of 116 years of repression.
    Since colonialism is always for exploitation, there are no opportunities in Puerto Rico for Puerto Ricans. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans out, than in Puerto Rico. Therefore, Puerto Ricans are desperate to find a political solution to our eternal colonialism!
    Most Puerto Ricans believe that decolonization can be achieved through the electoral process. But the electoral process is ultimately under the control of the government of the United States. Since the US government has ignored 33 United Nations resolutions asking it to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico, and it has maintained incarcerated Puerto Rico political prisoner Oscar López Rivera for 33 years despite worldwide support to free him, there should be no doubt that the US government will never allow decolonization via the electoral process. If it were possible to do it that way, we would not have it!
    The better way to decolonize is for that 80% of the Puerto Rico voter turnout to instead protest in the streets to demand our inalienable right to self-determination and independence, and insist that the UN do the decolonization in conformity to international law. After all, colonialism is within the jurisdiction of international law and never under national law. That is why it is a crime against humanity to have a colony under international law, but not so under US law.
    José M López Sierra

  7. Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?
    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.
    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.
    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?
    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.
    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!
    José M López Sierra

  8. US says Oscar López Rivera is a terrorist
    Is that right?
    A United States (US) Army manual defined terrorism as “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature …through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.” Isn’t that the way the United States obtained Puerto Rico 117 years ago? And isn’t that how the US government has maintained Puerto Rico a colony ever since? Nelson A. Denis goes into the details on how the US government has done that in his book, WAR AGAINST ALL PUERTO RICANS.
    Most new media make us believe that terror is a weapon of the weak. But, if you look beyond this manipulated interpretation, you will discover that terror is primarily a weapon of the powerful.
    Why has the US government incarcerated Oscar López Rivera for 34 years? The only reason is, because of his struggle to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism. Is that terrorism or resistance?
    International law gives people the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize themselves. Therefore, the US government’s incarceration of Oscar is has no justification under international law. In fact, the justification is to find the US government guilty of the crime of maintaining Puerto Rico a colony, despite 34 United Nations’ resolutions asking it to decolonize her immediately! But since the US has the strongest military in the world, its attitude has always been, “And, who’s going to make me?”
    How could we make the bully decolonize Puerto Rico? Certainly not through any process that it could control. Permanent and peaceful protest is the best way in which the US government has the least control.
    The US government is motivated by getting the biggest profits for its corporations, and not protecting our liberties, human rights and justice for all. That means that we will have to tirelessly protest to demand that our inalienable right to self-determination and independence be respected.
    And that is not being a terrorist. That is resisting the bully who has taken what is rightfully ours!
    Click on the above link to read about the real terrorist.

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