- Created: 13 June 2015
May 29, 2015 marks 32 years of imprisonment for Puerto Rican patriot Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is held as a political prisoner in US jails. During twelve of these 32 years he endured confinement in two control units of a program known as Super Max, located in Marion, Illinois and Florence, Colorado. In 1998 he was transferred to the maximum security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he remains.
Lopez Rivera, now 70 years old, is the Latin American political prisoner who has served the most years in US prisons.
A veteran of the Vietnam War and decorated for valor in combat, Oscar Lopez Rivera was arrested in 1981 because of his struggles in defense of human rights and his affirmation of Puerto Rican national identity. He was sentenced to seventy years in prison.
This Puerto Rican patriot rejected the possibility of obtaining a parole offered during President Bill Clinton’s administration. Clinton pardoned most Puerto Rican prisoners who by then had served nearly 20 years in prison. Lopez Rivera did not accept his parole in solidarity with his fellow comrades Haydee Beltran and Carlos Torres who remained incarcerated at the time and are now out of prison.
Public outrage over the case of López Rivera is beginning to be the source of great protests. The colonialist authorities fear new demonstrations revealing how strongly Puerto Ricans uphold the idea of independence, despite the systematic and violent colonial coercion the US has been applying against that people since the early twentieth century.
As Venezuelan writer Freddy J. Melo said, "In its five hundred long years of existence –since the time the Taino [Caribbean island aborigines] were stripped of their land and decimated– the sensitive, capable and creative multi-ethnic mestizo people formed there have not lived one day of their own history. "
Through a classical colonial exploitation, formally disguised, the United States controls everything: the Mandatory Military Service that nurtures the forces for their incessant imperialist wars; foreign trade; the coin; communications; the granting and withdrawal of citizenship and nationality; immigration and emigration; land tenure; airspace; maritime boundaries and coastlines; woods; ports; minerals; work regulations ... everything.
Puerto Rico was a spoil of the opportunistic war launched by the US against Spain in the late nineteenth century, aimed at taking territories from the decadent Spanish colonial empire. The territories included the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico whose peoples were heroically fighting against the Spanish colonial empire and were close to obtaining their independence by their own means.
Since the US landing on the island in 1898, Puerto Ricans have known in sequence: the military occupation in the first two years; the civil government with a governor and supreme judge appointed by the United States. In 948 the first native governor –a man subservient to Washington—was chosen and a bicameral legislature, restricted to bilingual property owners, was appointed subject to imperial veto.
The Free Associated State (FAS) as a formula to mask the colonial status was established in 1952. Puerto Rico was given the rights to a Constitution and the popular election of the governor and the parliamentarians; while always maintaining and ensuring subordination to the will of the White House.
The political game in the island is controlled by two parties: the New Progressive Party and the Popular Party. These are obviously neither "progressive" nor "popular", but stalwarts to Washington.
Puerto Ricans have never stopped fighting against these, and repression has been brutal. There have been massacres, targeted killings, persecution and imprisonment of thousands of fighters, whose names can be represented by a woman: Lolita Lebron, and a man: Pedro Albizu Campos.
From the permanent defense of their right to use the Spanish language at the beginning of the occupation, to the memorable battle of Puerto Ricans a few years ago to get the US Navy out of Vieques Island, the people of that Caribbean nation has been an example of Latin American patriotic will.
In 2012, Puerto Ricans fought a successful campaign to reject in a referendum the intention of the colonial government -- with the support of the “opposition” party-- to amend the Constitution. The amendment would limit the right to bail and would change the legislative composition in the island. The Puerto Ricans said NO in the referendum and many felt that such a popular victory against a very strong official campaign for the YES involved a measure of repudiation to the system.