Washington – The campaign for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is attempting to increase the involvement of international leaders and organizations, after the petition obtained the 100,000 signatures that could rouse a public response from the White House.
The plan is for international figures to express solidarity with López Rivera’s release during this Christmas season, in front of American facilities overseas, such as embassies, special interest offices, and universities.
During the past few days, Puerto Rican political leaders have raised their voice, demanding the release of López Rivera, who has spent 35 years and six months in prison after being convicted in 1981 of seditious conspiracy, due to his links to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, or FALN).
For example, Governor-elect Ricardo Rosselló and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D–NY) sent letters to President Barack Obama last week, asking for López Rivera’s release.
Among those who renewed their public statements were Governor Alejandro García Padilla, Resident Commissioner in Washington Pedro Pierluisi, Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz, Senate President Eduardo Bhatia, and pro-independence Senator María de Lourdes Santiago, as well as artists like Danny Rivera, Chucho Avellanet, and René Pérez, as well as baseball player Carlos Delgado.
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Reverend Desmond Tutu and indigenous leader Rigoberta Menchú, as well as former President of Uruguay José “Pepe” Mujica, singer-songwriter Rubén Blades, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have also encouraged President Obama to release the pro-independence prisoner, which he could do without waiting for a recommendation from the US Department of Justice or having to offer any explanations.
“We’re still demanding, through every peaceful and legitimate channel, that Puerto Rico’s request be addressed,” Eduardo Villanueva, chairman of the Human Rights Committee, said yesterday, noting that they are considering acts of civil disobedience.
The petition on the White House website—which can still be signed through the program “We the People”—is seeking a response from President Obama regarding López Rivera’s clemency request, which has been under review by the US Justice Department since 2011.
The online petition to the White House was initiated by attorney José Rodríguez Irizarry. As of now, President Obama has 43 days remaining in the White House to issue some kind of public explanation or make a definitive decision regarding López Rivera’s case.
Since it is a program established by Obama, the “We the People” initiative will surely end along with his presidency. However, the online petition has helped strengthen the claims for the release of López Rivera, who will turn 74 years old on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.
“The fight doesn’t end here. The fact that we reached the signature goal in only 25 days should be used as a mechanism to exert pressure on federal officials and as evidence of the massive support this case has and the need to genuinely consider Oscar’s release. The petition is still getting signatures, so there’s no need to stop spreading the message through that vehicle,” remarked Rodríguez Irizarry.
Like the rest of the signers, Rodríguez Irizarry must now wait for Obama’s response.
The Previous Petition
In March of 2015, 105,000 citizens also signed a petition to have President Obama remove Governor García Padilla from office. Two months later, the White House responded publicly, keeping the issue at arm’s length and stating that this kind of matter is governed by the Constitution of Puerto Rico.
In its message, the White House said that, according to the terms of the “We the People” website, they “will not address matters under the purview of state or local law—in this case, the Constitution of Puerto Rico”.
Ironically, one year later the federal government imposed the Oversight Board over the Puerto Rican government, a move that has annulled the power of the Island’s elected officials regarding the budget and other financial plans.
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