An Initiative of the National Boricua Human Rights Network
We, the undersigned academics, professors, and researchers, call upon you to exercise your constitutional power of pardon and release Oscar López Rivera (87651-024, FCI Terre Haute). As one of the Western hemisphere’s longest held political prisoners, Oscar López Rivera has served nearly 35 years in prison—12 in solitary confinement—for his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico. With this letter, members of the academic community join the international clamor demanding an end to Oscar’s unjust, disproportionate, and politically motivated incarceration.
Oscar López Rivera was charged with seditious conspiracy,the same charge levied against one of your personal heroes, Nelson Mandela. Oscar deserves commutation for many reasons. As he was not charged, let alone accused, of harming or killing anyone. His 70-year sentence is therefore disproportionate. At 73 years old, this decorated Vietnam veteran has spent almost half his life in prison. His co-defendants, released long ago, are productive members of society. Support for his release is broad and growing in the United States, Puerto Rico, and throughout the world. It includes the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; five members of Congress; the governor of Puerto Rico; labor organizations, such as the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; the New York City Council; churches and religious leaders, such as the United Church of Christ in the U.S. and the Catholic Bishops of Puerto Rico; the United Nations Decolonization Committee; six presidents of Latin American nations, and four of your fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
We applaud your promise to commute more sentences and your expressed understanding that the constitutional power of pardon is the appropriate remedy for correcting the wrong of disproportionate sentences. We also support your recent commutations of the disproportionate sentences of people convicted of drug related offenses.
Given your recent use of your power of pardon and the increasingly fervent calls for Oscar’s release, we are at a loss to understand why you have not yet granted him clemency. As you are well aware, Presidents Truman, Carter and Clinton commuted the sentences of men and women in prison for their commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico. The integration of each of these individuals into Puerto Rico’s civil society has been seamless, thanks to vast community and familial support. This would be no different for Oscar.
We urge you to grant him immediate release. His family and supporters await him with open arms.
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