Oscar Lopez Rivera, son of Puerto Rico and the longest-held political prisoner in Latin America and the Caribbean, arrived in Cuba with his head held high.
He spent 36 years of his life imprisoned in the U.S. accused of an uncertain charge, and no attorney could press charges against him. He spent 12 years in lock down and experienced firsthand a cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Actually, he was punished for being a militant member of an organization in Chicago that championed for Puerto Rican independence.
Before all that, he fought in Vietnam and was even honored by the U.S. army. As other brothers in arms, he understood how unfair the American aggression against Ho Chi Minh´s land was, as well as its colonial nature, which he immediately linked to its homeland. When he returned from war, he went to Chicago where he became an essential organizer and teacher in the community by founding schools and cultural centers. Refused to accept jurisdiction in American courts, he declared himself war prisoner in an anti-colonial fight and in this line, he demanded his rights. His conduct was excellent and his ridiculous sentence would have expired in 2023.
He could have been freed in 1999. Former president Clinton issued a special pardon for several pro-independence fighters which included him. However, he did not accept it as the pardon did not consider two other fighters. Nonetheless, the other two were freed shortly after and he remained in prison despite his lawyer´s efforts. In his final days in office, president Obama pardoned Oscar on May. He spent the last months in his native Puerto Rico in house arrest.
As never before, Oscar´s freedom united the people of Puerto Rico despite the different ideological viewpoints and party memberships. The peaceful demonstrations and actions proved it. All the churches, Masonic Lodges, LGBT community, mayors, and all pro-independence fighters got together. The governor himself, in an unprecedented move, visited him in jail and requested Obama for his release. This fight was also supported in all Latin America and the within the U.S. itself.
Already in Cuban soil, Oscar hugged Fernando Gonzalez Llort, one of the Cuban Five Heroes and current head of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People, who was his fellow prisoner for months. Afterwards, Fernando, in a welcoming ceremony, attended by three of the Cuban Five said: “Saying a few words about Oscar is a great commitment. It is hard to find the right words to picture his greatness, his work, and example. That work and example have placed him at the top of the resistance against the Empire domination.”
Later, Oscar received the Solidarity Order, bestowed by Cuba´s VP Mercedes Lopez Acea on behalf of the Council of States of Cuba. Oscar said: “Today is a dream of love for this land, love for its people, the Revolution, and a man (Fidel) who gave us the ultimate example of resistance and struggle. I feel plenty of humbleness, love, and gratitude for everything the Cuban people has done for our cause, but also for everything done for every nation in the world deserving justice and dignity.
Oscar has been warmly welcomed in Cuba. He has exchanged vividly with kids, young university students, and will do the same with solidarity groups. He laid flowers to Marti in his monument and will pay tribute to Fidel in his visit to Santiago de Cuba. He has declared his admiration for both personalities.
“As people —he said— we have never experienced it (freedom). Nonetheless, we have fought hard to decolonize ourselves (…) We believe we belong to the group of Latin American nations and a small island can be (…) strong.”
You are right, Oscar. Long live Puerto Rico!
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff