Oscar López Rivera is an Independentista, a Puerto Rican Nationalist and member of FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), an organization whose members declared themselves combatants against the US colonization of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was invaded and subsequently seized by the US in 1898, and has since been denied the right to self-govern. While Puerto Ricans vote in the primary, serve in the US armed forces, are required to register for selective service and can be drafted to fight in US wars, Puerto Ricans living on the island are not allowed to vote in presidential elections and have no voting representatives in the US Senate or Congress.
FALN claimed responsibility for more than 120 bomb attacks on banks, military sites and government facilities across the US between 1974 and 1980, which led to the 1980 arrest of 11 men and women for seditious conspiracy.
Although he was named a co-defendant in the case, Oscar López Rivera was not arrested until a year later, when he was picked up during a traffic stop, and also charged with seditious conspiracy, weapons possession and transporting stolen vehicles across state lines.
No evidence was ever found tying López Rivera to any of the bombings, and although he was not convicted of any violent crimes, he was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison. Later, an additional 15 years were added to his sentence for an alleged escape attempt.
He is now the longest-incarcerated Puerto Rican political prisoner, currently serving 70 years, including 12 in solitary confinement, even though the UN has condemned solitary confinement in excess of 15 days as a violation of human rights.
However, although there’s a growing movement calling for López Rivera’s release, the US government has classified him as a terrorist.
Puerto Ricans Push Obama to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera, Independence Activist Jailed for 35 Years
~~Published on Dec 23, 2016~~
Over 100,000 people have signed a petition urging President Obama to grant clemency to Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera, who has been imprisoned for about 35 years, much of the time in solitary confinement.
In 1981, López Rivera was convicted on federal charges, including seditious conspiracy – conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico by force. In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López Rivera refused to accept the deal because it did not include two fellow activists, who have since been released.
We speak to Oscar’s brother José López Rivera and Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council.
“It’s very difficult to do art in prison, because the limitations are enormous.”
The understated words of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera reflect both the realities of the U.S. prison-industrial complex and the challenges of a political prisoner making art a weapon of resistance.
To understand how Oscar developed as a renowned artist in such a poisonous environment, we examine his history.
Who is Oscar Lopez Rivera?
Oscar López Rivera is a Puerto Rican political prisoner who has served more than 34 years in U.S. prisons, among the longest-held political prisoners on the planet. Convicted in 1981 of “seditious conspiracy” – that is, conspiring to use force against the authority of the United States over Puerto Rico – for his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico, Oscar was not accused or convicted of causing harm or taking a life.
He is nevertheless serving a sentence of 70 years in the U.S. “gulag.” He is among the longest held political prisoners in world history, and is considered by many to be the Mandela of the 21st century.
Oscar López Rivera: Artist
In spite of 34 years of adversity in prison, Oscar has maintained his integrity, spirit, and political principles. He keeps fit, reads voraciously, stays up to date with current affairs, and writes.
The narrative of his life and years in prison, Between Torture and Resistance, created from letters to family, friends, and comrades, was published in 2013.
Oscar López Rivera (born 6 January 1943) is a Puerto Rican nationalist and one of the leaders of the FALN
In 1981, López Rivera was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property. In 1988 he was sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison for conspiring to escape from prison.
López Rivera was among the 14 convicted FALN members offered conditional clemency by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999, but rejected the offer. His sister, Zenaida López, said he refused the offer because on parole, he would be in “prison outside prison.”