As we watch the Oregon standoff unfold, I can’t help but wonder (and theorize) why the U.S. government has not stepped in and taken action. The so-called “militiamen” have taken over a federal building, an act the media has taken lightly and have yet to even consider the possible federal charges the Hammonds can and should face, according to U.S. law. For example, Alex Altman of TIME believes “A light touch suits the Oregon incident.”
Seriously? A bunch of armed white men ready to kill should be approached with a “light touch?” Yet, Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist whose birthday is today, is considered so dangerous he has remained in prison for the last 35 years.
Oscar López Rivera was born on January 6, 1943 in San Sebastián, my mother’s hometown. His family moved to the U.S. in 1952 and in 1961 López Rivera served our country in the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze star. He was an activist for the independence of Puerto Rico, one and of the founders of La Escuelita Puertorriqueña, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center. In 1981, López Rivera was charged and convicted of seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property for his alleged involvement with the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN).
What is the correlation between López Rivera and the so-called “militiamen?” Both committed seditious conspiracy, except López Rivera has already served his 20-year minimum for the crime. The “militiamen” are committing a federal crime right now, yet they most likely will not serve the same amount of time as López Rivera. And if you really start looking at López Rivera’s case, you would see that he is a political prisoner of the United States:
In 1981, Oscar was arrested after a traffic stop, tried for the identical seditious conspiracy charge, convicted, and sentenced by the same judge to a prison term of 55 years. In 1987 he received a consecutive 15 year term for conspiracy to escape–a plot conceived and carried out by government agents and informants/provocateurs, resulting in a total sentence of 70 years.
Upon arrest, Oscar took the same position his co-defendants had taken, asserting that under international law, U.S. colonial control over Puerto Rico was a crime against humanity, that the courts of the U.S. had no jurisdiction to try him as a criminal, and that he should be remanded to an impartial international tribunal to have his status judged. While this position was recognized by international judicial bodies and other international forums, the U.S. government refused to recognize it and proceeded to try him for criminal offenses.
In my opinion, Oscar López Rivera should be freed without conditional clemency. The “militiamen” (terrorists, if you ask me) have already been given a pass without facing criminal charges for their federal crimes, which if charged should be facing a minimum of 20 years in prison. López Rivera has already served his time.
Efrain “Pa’lante” Nieves is an original member of Latino Rebels. He is also the creator of Pa’lante Latino. Efrain tweets from @efrain_nieves.