Why The Adoration Of Oscar Lopez Rivera Is Bad For Puerto Rico

Oscar Lopez, an inmate at the new super-maximum-seA quote from a movie that I can’t remember says- “People in a desert can be so desperate for water that they’ll crawl to a mirage of an oasis, and when they don’t find it, drink the sand.” Maybe that describes the state of Latinos these days looking to create heroes? In my opinion this has happened with the recent adoration of Puerto Rican political prisoner, Oscar López Rivera .

López Rivera, now 70, was charged with “seditious conspiracy” in 1981 and sentenced to 55 years in jail. López Rivera lead the Chicago wing of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a Puerto Rican clandestine separatist group that orchestrated various bombings in the U.S. from the 1970s to the 1980s.

For many, their cause was and still is noble, calling for the independence of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It is this very play to our sense of patriotism for the motherland that has made the López Rivera cult of personality flourish. In 1999 President Bill Clinton offered him and 12 other Puerto Rican prisoners clemency, but López Rivera declined and has been in jail ever since.

The problem with paying homage to López Rivera today is he remains an “unrepentant terrorist,” and I don’t use those terms lightly. He has openly said he has “No Regret” for the actions of the FALN, an endorsement of their violence. I asked my father, who is 73 and was politically active in Chicago during the FALN era, why López Rivera decided to stay in prison. He said- “had he left, he would have faded into obscurity like the others who were involved in the group. By staying, he has created a name for himself and stays relevant.” López Rivera has become the wrong mantra for what is a noble cause.

Should López Rivera be set free?

Yes, he is an old man who can do no harm and letting him out can continue to heal the wounds from that turbulent time in history. Should we support his legacy, No! Violence was and never will be the answer to resolving the issue of Puerto Rico’s status. The majority of Puerto Ricans who lived through the era of the FALN never supported their methods. To the contrary, these actions by a small group of domestic terrorist hurt many innocent people and gave our community a bad name. We can not in good conscious positively support them without condoning other acts of terrorism for political aim, be it 9/11 or the Oklahoma city bombing.

If we as Puerto Ricans are to move forward, we must do so without imposing “revisionist history” on what López Rivera and the FALN did four decades ago. President Obama should let him out of jail (if he’ll leave); but this man is no role model and if we as Puerto Ricans are to have our own Gandhi & Martin Luther King we should look to instill those non-violent values in the new generation.