On Jan. 17, 2017, with just three days left to his presidency, the United States president Barack Obama made history by commuting the sentence of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Today, after years of peaceful protests, and support from political leaders, Nobel Prize winners, and celebrities, Puerto Ricans got their voices heard.
Oscar López Rivera was imprisoned on May 29, 1981 after being convicted for “seditious conspiracy” for plotting against the U.S. He had also been labeled as a terrorist after joining the FALN, a separatist organization in Puerto Rico whose sole purpose is to fight for Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States.
López Rivera is the world’s longest-serving political prisoners after having served 35 years, twelve of which were spent in solitary confinement in a 6 ft by 9 ft cell. López Rivera hurt no one and publicly renounced violent acts stating:
“We realized other tactics to armed force could be more effective, mobilising people through peaceful campaigning. Morally, also, we came to see that we had to lead by example, that if we are advocating for a better world then there are things you cannot do. You cannot get a better world by being unjust yourself.”
Granted, in 1999, President Bill Clinton offered him clemency along with 11 other Puerto Ricans who had been imprisoned for fighting for independence. If he’d accepted, López Rivera would had only served until 2009. However, he turned the offer down as a matter of morals because two of his Puerto Rican compatriots had not been offered the same deal.
Today, Purto Rican celebrities such as Ricky Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Residente have taken to twitter to celebrate and thank Barack Obama for finally listening to our pleas.
¡Hoy mi islita es la más feliz! Se hace justicia. Gracias @BarackObama por liberar a nuestro Oscar López
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) January 17, 2017
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 17, 2017
Liberaron a Oscar López Rivera!!
Puerto Rico, nuestra mancha de plátano salió del mismo racimo. Unidos como hermanos lo logramos ️
— Residente (@Residente) January 17, 2017
Today will go down in history not only because the world’s longest serving prisoner was granted freedom staring on May 17th. No. Today will go down in history as one of the key moments that pushed the Puerto Rican independence movement forward.
Today, on Jan. 17th, 2017, after 35 years of darkness and clipped wings Oscar López Rivera was granted freedom.
Today Puerto Ricans were granted hope.