Puerto Rican Independence Fighter
Obama: Provide Immediate and Unconditional Release of Oscar López Rivera
A march of thousands in New York and Puerto Rico, representing the broad unity of millions worldwide, spoke with one voice to President Obama: Provide Immediate and Unconditional Release for Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Obama has the power to immediately release Oscar and doing so would be a stand in favor of human rights.
Oscar has been a prisoner for 34 years now, the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner in U.S. history. He has remained in prison despite never having been charged with any violent act or harming anyone. Contending with the torture of solitary, being kept far from family and friends, facing severe and inhumane conditions for years on end, he has remained determined and undaunted as Puerto Rican patriot for independence. The U.S. keeps him imprisoned because he refuses to submit to U.S. demands to abandon the fight for Puerto Rican independence. Oscar’s unyielding social love for his people and all those fighting worldwide is an inspiration to all, and this too the U.S. rulers fear.
The injustice of Oscar’s imprisonment has been denounced through out the Americas and worldwide. He is known as the Mandela of the Americas — jailed like Mandela for “seditious conspiracy,” a charge used to attack the political views and stands of those opposing colonialism and imperialism.
The growing strength and scope of support for Oscar is such that the Governor of Puerto Rico visited Oscar in prison — the first time such a visit to a political prisoner by a governor occurred. He commented that Oscar’s sentence of 70 years is excessive and ran against the principles of “justice, humanity and reason.” He added that Oscar “has not been connected to any violent act. He was accused of conspiring. The line that divides ‘conspiring’ from ‘thinking’ is very fine.”
The political parties of Puerto Rico, artists, musicians, universities, lawyers and numerous associations and organizations through out the Americas, all are demanding the immediate release of Oscar and condemning his imprisonment as a violation of human rights. Many bring out that international law supports the right of a colonized people to resist and organize for self-determination. It is colonialism that is the crime, resistance justified.
The U.S. has colonized Puerto Rico since 1898 and has made every effort to crush the struggle for independence, using terrorism, assassinations, jailing and violence against the resistance. It has also imposed severe poverty on the country, another means to limit resistance as people put all their efforts into surviving. According to the American Community Survey, Puerto Rico's poverty rate is about 45 percent — three times the national U.S. figure. An estimated 80 percent of children live in high-poverty areas. This impoverishment has also forced millions of Puerto Ricans to come to the U.S. to live. But like Oscar, who came to Chicago at the age of twelve, their hearts remain in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.
Voice of Revolution demands that president Obama immediately free Oscar López Rivera and submit to UN declarations for the end of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico. We also support the demands of patriotic Puerto Rican organizations for 1) the complete decontamination of the island of Vieques (used as a weapons testing range by the U.S. Navy); 2) an end to the continuing political repression and criminalization of the Puerto Rican community, on the island and in the U.S.
Despite 34 years in prison, Oscar remains unvanquished in his stand for Puerto Rican independence and for the rights of all. This can be seen in the artwork he has developed as a prisoner and in his writings. Taking his stand against colonialism, Oscar has stated, “Colonialism is a monumental injustice according to the norms of civilized humanity and a crime under international law… No nation has the right to take over another nation. The military invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico clearly depicts the rapacious and voracious nature of the United States government, with the armed forces, rifles, and cannons it used to subjugate a people into submission and reduce a nation of one million inhabitants to a commodity for the bartering of human beings. For 89 years, this nation, conquered by force — the Puerto Rican people — have been denied their basic rights to self-determination and independence.” Today that struggle for independence continues and Oscar is an example of its vitality and determination.
Immediate and Unconditional Release of Oscar López Rivera!
On May 30, 2015, about 5,000 people marched in New York City demanding that President Obama provide the immediate and unconditional release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Puerto Rico also celebrated their 2nd Caminata Nacional (National March) for the Puerto Rican political prisoner who the U.S. has kept in prison for 34 years as of May 29. Actions also took place in San Francisco and all across the Americas May 29 and 30.
The New York march went from Central Harlem to El Barrio for a rally. It brought together human rights organizations, such as the National Boricua Human Rights Network, a main organizer. Delegations from Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Massachusetts participated, as did numerous community and political organizations, as well as city, state and federal elected representatives. Those fighting to free political prisoners, such as those demanding the release of Native American fighter Leonard Peltier and African American resistance fighter Mumia Abu-Jamal, also marched. The broad support for Oscar was seen in the many professors, students, journalists, health workers and people from all walks of life that joined the demonstration.
As the banner put it, there is One Voice for Oscar demanding Obama provide his immediate and unconditional release.
We reprint below remarks given by Dr. Luis Nieves Falcón, Puerto Rican patriot and great defender of human rights and fighter for the Puerto Rican political prisoners at the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) held in Ottawa at the end of March 1998. It is fully relevant today. And while freedom for most of the political prisoners he refers to was achieved, Oscar López Rivera remains unjustly jailed.
I wish to thank the organizers for inviting us to participate in this Congress. This is a reflection of Comrade Bains' concept of solidarity. He, for one, resolutely gave us a voice in these halls of yours so that the voice of the voiceless, the voice of Puerto Ricans around whom U.S. imperialism has built a wall of silence could be heard in Canada and from Canada to the rest of the world. Thank you very much for allowing me to share some ideas with you.
I think I should start by saying that the most salient characteristic in the relations between Puerto Rico and the United States is the absolute power of the U.S. Congress. There is no avenue of Puerto Rican life, which is not controlled by the United States. The relations have been characterized by a systematic denial of democratic reforms in the island. In addition, for the last 13 years, the UN Decolonization Committee has requested from the United States to initiate the process of self-determination for Puerto Rico. The United States has refused to comply with the request of the UN Decolonization Committee and instead has stated that Puerto Rico is not a colony. Because of this stand of the United States what you see in U.S.-Puerto Rico relations is a continuous effort by the U.S. to cover up the colonial condition of Puerto Rico; what they successfully cover up in the media but are unable to cover up in the minds of the Puerto Ricans is a continuous persecution and incarceration of anti-colonial combatants leading to the continued existence of Puerto Rican political prisoners. And there will be more political prisoners as long as our sovereign power is not returned to the people of Puerto Rico.
What has the colonial situation imposed by the United States meant? For one thing, the most obvious manifestation of this American control is the fact that Puerto Ricans are unnecessary in their own country. And in order to foster this principle, the United States has systematically continued in Puerto Rico a process of sterilization of women. As a result of the massive sterilization of women, probably the largest mass sterilization in the world, one-third of our women in their fertile years are underproductive. As a result of that process, population growth in Puerto Rico at this moment is not due to the birth of Puerto Ricans, but to the birth of foreigners brought into and encouraged by the United States to come into the Puerto Rican territory. To the genocidal treatment of the Puerto Rican women, particularly women from the poor sectors, one has to add the massive displacement of Puerto Ricans from their own country to the metropolis; a cycle initiated for economic reasons, in order to move them to ghettos created in the United States where they become the lowest paid and the most discriminated against people. As a result of that, more than one-third of the Puerto Rican population is outside Puerto Rico, so we are exploited not only on the island but also in the entrails of the monster.
To this one has to add that Puerto Rico has become the classic experimental laboratory of the United States. My brothers and sisters, the Agent Orange that was used against the people of Vietnam was put to the test in Puerto Rico, to see what its effects were, so that it could later be used on the brothers and sisters of Viet Nam. As well, all the experimental contraceptive pills have been tested first in Puerto Rico. Among these things, one also has to mention that some of the experimental work conducted in Puerto Rico included, as recorded by history, the transplant of cancer cells to healthy patients in order to see how cancer affects healthy patients. So, in this sense, Puerto Rico has been the subject of genocidal treatment by the United States.
But, in addition to this decimation of the population, one also finds the economic control that the United States exercises on Puerto Rico. There is not a single sector of the economy which is not controlled by the United States, to the extent that our tropical country is forced to import many products it itself produces, including oranges and grapefruits from Florida! In Puerto Rico the saying is that we produce what we do not consume and we consume what we do not produce. So in a sense, the control of the population, the control of the economy, has been followed naturally by pervasive conditions of poverty.
In this showcase of "democracy," in this showcase of "American endeavor," more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. More than half of the population! More than half of the population, under the protection of this "democratic" and "civilized" country, depends on food stamps in order to be able to maintain minimum dietary requirements. But it is not only this economic control, these economic conditions, an unemployment rate that was calculated officially at 16 per cent, but we know that the statistics are underrated by 15 per cent, which leaves an unemployment rate in my country of around 30 per cent. If you take unemployment of 30 per cent, if you take more than half of the population living in poverty, more than half of the population needing food stamps in order to survive, you do not have to think too much in order to know what are the results of this supposedly democratic interference of the United States in my country.
Furthermore, we find in this colonial situation, an increase of all those social indicators that reveal a kind of social malaise of the people. We have some of the highest rates of criminality, we have some of the highest rates of drug addiction, we have one of the highest rates of interpersonal violence, we have one of the highest rates of suicide and we have one of the highest rates of mental illness. If you are analyzing a country, and you see this level of violence, but violence which has not yet been turned against the oppressor, but instead exists amongst the people themselves, encouraged by the United States, you will conclude that as long as the Puerto Ricans are violent amongst themselves, the oppressor is safe and he can continue ruling.
In order to cope with this situation, the United States has invented various legal referenda, supposedly to solve the political situation in Puerto Rico. We are at the moment undergoing one of these enterprises, a political electoral enterprise of the United States in which the U.S. is considering whether to conduct what they call a "self-determination referendum" in Puerto Rico. But do not let the name fool you. It is not a self-determination referendum. Why? For one thing, the results of the referendum are not mandatory for the United States. The United States has said that this referendum is like a big public opinion poll because, allegedly, up till now, it is unclear what the Puerto Ricans prefer; but the U.S. will not be bound by whatever the Puerto Ricans decide.
It does not comply with the basic international requirements for referenda on self-determination. There is nowhere a transfer of sovereign powers to the people of Puerto Rico, so in a sense what you have here is a slave dealing with the master, not in a position of equality, but in a position of subordination, because there is no transfer of sovereign power to the colonial people.
In addition to that, a country that has been decimated economically by the United States for 100 years, which refuses to oblige itself to offer some sort of economic compensation that will allow the new nation to stand on its own, in order to develop itself and carry on. In addition, the Americans talk about a Puerto Rico referendum for self-determination but the militarization of the country is increasing during this whole process. The Southern Command that was in Panama has been transferred to Puerto Rico and the Special Forces that are now in the States are going to be transferred as well. Brothers and sisters, those from Canada and those from other countries worry very much about the implications for their revolutionary movements because the Americans might send their marines. Brothers and sisters, Americans do not have to send their marines to the island. There are 13 American bases in Puerto Rico surrounding the whole population. So you can ask, is it possible to have a democratic referendum with this military pressure on the people of Puerto Rico?
Furthermore, the United States has encouraged the migration of foreigners to Puerto Rico, some of them the most conservative elements from the countries from which they have come and those people have become American citizens and in the referendum for self-determination, all American citizens are allowed to vote! This means that those foreigners can decide the future of Puerto Rico and at this moment their numbers, their presence in the Puerto Rican population will immediately tell you that they will be the ones who will decide what will be the alternative that will be selected in such an electoral process.
The solutions to the colonial status of Puerto Rico that are being discussed are impossible solutions; they are solutions really designed to ensure the continuation of the status quo and the colonial condition. Why do I say that they are impossible solutions? Independence? Sure independence for a country that has been under American colonization for 100 years with no obligation on the part of the United States to assume financial responsibility for at least the years necessary to ensure that the new nation can develop in a healthy way.
What of statehood? Well, the only way that statehood is possible for Puerto Rico is if Spanish ceases to be its main language and English becomes the official language of the island. In fact, a law has just been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives that specifically states that in order to aspire to statehood, they have to ensure that every Puerto Rican child is fluent in English by the age of ten.
Brothers and sisters, this systematic attack on our language and culture began with the arrival of the United States in Puerto Rico in 1898. Since 1898, our culture and language have been under continuous attack. From 1898 to 1952, we could not speak Spanish in our schools. We had to learn all the academic subjects in English and as a result there was very little that we could learn because it was a language, which in culture, in experience, in its linguistic format, was so different from ours. So I have the impression that this impossible independence and this impossible annexation is just a façade, is just a story, to ensure that the continued colonial condition of Puerto Rico is not altered.
To further ensure that it is not altered, there is a systematic persecution of every Puerto Rican who either fights for independence or sympathizes with independence. In the past, I have expressed the horrendous conditions, which our 14 brothers and sisters experience in the U.S. prisons. They are 14 brothers and sisters whose only crime has been to believe in and to struggle for independence in Puerto Rico. [As a result of determined struggle, including demonstrations of 150,000 in Puerto Rico, all but Oscar Lopez Rivera have now been released.]
Very briefly, to summarize some of those conditions, I can mention first the disproportionate sentences. All of them were convicted for seditious conspiracy that is for conspiring to overthrow the legal power of the United States over Puerto Rico. Their sentences are ten and twelve times longer than the sentences imposed on the most horrendous crimes committed the year that they were sentenced. […]
In addition to the disproportionate sentencing, you must add the condition of exile. There is a U.S. jail in Puerto Rico and even though the American judicial system says that a person detained should be incarcerated in the prison closest to his or her family in order to avoid the disruption that incarceration can promote between the person in jail and their family, all of them are so remote from their parents, from their communities, from their friends that it is impossible for them to get the moral and spiritual support they need. [A problem that remains today for Oscar.] […]
In addition to their exile, you find them suffering the most horrendous conditions. There are six women amongst this group of 14. All of them have been sexually violated in the prison by their jailers. All of them are subjected to sensory deprivation. All of them are subjected to extreme conditions of isolation. Oscar López Rivera, was placed alone in a small cell, painted white, with 24-hour-a-day lighting for five years. He did not have anybody to talk to. Even his meals were pushed through a hole in front of the outer door of his cell.
These comrades have resisted in spite of all sorts of tortures. You are also acquainted with strip search. A strip search is a search of all the cavities of the prisoners — the nose, ears, mouth, their armpits, the penis, the vagina and the rectum. In many cases, such strip searches were performed on the women by male personnel. They used to perform four strip searches on Oscar López Rivera before he had a visit and four more strip searches after the visit. What does this tell us about the defender of human rights and of democracy in the world? It is a mockery. The United States is the principal violator of human rights not only in its own country but also outside of it. (Applause)
So what you find, brothers and sisters, is that the United States is laying down the foundations for a new confrontation with the Puerto Rican people. There was a massacre in 1957. There was a massacre in 1954. There was a revolution in 1950 when masses of Puerto Ricans were also massacred and I think they are laying the foundations for a new confrontation not only with the independence sector but also with a very small, though very systematic and persistent clandestine sector that has harassed the Americans and whom they fear. They are afraid of them because of the influence they can have on the Puerto Ricans in the United States as well as the Puerto Ricans at home and the damage this influence will cause them.
Brothers and sisters, at this moment this is the situation in Puerto Rico and the situation for these compatriots of mine who are incarcerated. Now as in the past I come here and I ask you to use your voice and ask [the President of the United States] to free the Puerto Rican prisoners. Because after all, brothers and sisters, solidarity also is a sharing of the pain, a sharing of the hurt that one feels when these things happen to our compatriots. I feel that their incarceration is representative of the incarceration that we all experience in this continent controlled by imperialism and by capitalism. Let's join in the effort to free the Puerto Rican political prisoners because in freeing them, we are all contributing to our own freedom.