Free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera

Steven Katsineris with a piece written in 2011 calling for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. It featured in the Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia.
The Puerto Rican is still in prison. 
Steven Katsineris is an Australian free-lance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven Katsineris lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.

  • My beliefs then and now are that there is no greater crime than to deny a nation its freedom; that I as a colonized subject, have never been a free man, therefore I’ve only had one choice- to fight for my freedom by any means necessary; and that ours is a just and noble cause to be defended in the diaspora, in Puerto Rico… - Oscar Lopez Rivera.
International law denounces colonialism as a crime and recognizes a colonized people's right to end colonialism by any means at their disposal. The United Nations recognizes that these laws apply to the case of Puerto Rico. For many years now, the United Nations' De-colonization Committee has approved resolutions recognizing the inalienable right of Puerto Rico's people to independence and self-determination.

In 1981, Oscar Lopez Rivera, an organizer, activist and campaigner for Puerto Rican independence, was arrested by the FBI allegeding he was an Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) leader. He is serving 70 years for “seditious conspiracy”.

Initially sentenced to 55 years, 15 more were added in 1988, based on spurious charges of participating in an escape conspiracy.

Between 1980 and 1983, 14 alleged members of the FALN were arrested, accused of seditious conspiracy, and sentenced to prison terms between 50 and 90 years. The Puerto Rican Political Prisoners were apart of two of these clandestine organizations; as Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN) and Los Macheteros. Their arrests and subsequent imprisonment correspond to a planned effort by the FBI to destroy their organizations and repress their activities.

Oscar was not accused or convicted of causing harm to anyone or taking a life. Oscar’s projected release date was 2023, when he will be 79 years old. He has already served 29 years in jail, including harsh conditions of total isolation and sensory deprivation. Oscar Lopez Rivera is now 67 years old, making him among one of the longest held political prisoners in the history of Puerto Rico and indeed in the world. Of all the Puerto Rican political prisoners convicted in the early 1980s, only Oscar remains in prison.

In 1999, President Clinton commuted the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners arrested in the 1980s, after they had served from 16 to 20 years as he felt that their sentences were disproportionately lengthy. President Clinton also offered to commute Oscar’s sentence on condition that he serve an additional ten years, with clear conduct in prison before being eligible for release. Oscar didn’t accept the president’s offer, as the offer did not include all the Puerto Rican political prisoners and from his experiences in prison, he thought his jailers would make it very difficult for him to successfully carry out these conditions. Under the conditions of Clinton’s offer he would have been released in 2009.

The other Puerto Rican political prisoner not included in Clinton’s proposal, Carlos Alberto Torres was released in July 2010, after serving 30 years in prison.

In January 2010, Mark Tanner, the U.S. Parole Commission’s hearing examiner, convened a hearing in the Terre Haute (Indiana) prison, to review the request of Oscar López Rivera, 67 years old, for release on parole.

As evidence of support for Oscar’s release about 40,000 letters were sent to the parole board and US President Obama asking for clemency. Oscar’s Defense attorney Jan Susler argued that he met the criteria for release, has been a model prisoner, and was never accused of any rules violations. Moreover, that his release would not lesson the seriousness of charges (true or false) or promote disrespect for the law, and that a freed Rivera wouldn't jeopardize public welfare.

Despite these efforts on January 5, 2010 a US Parole Commission recommended he remain in prison until his mandatory 2023 release date or serve another 12 to15 years before parole reconsideration, whichever comes first. During the hearing a seven-page political diatribe against Rivera was introduced, listing unrelated acts and unsupported conclusions.

Oscar enjoys wide support among the Puerto Rican people. Oscar’s supporters include, the Puerto Rican Senate and the House of Representatives, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, several former governors, almost every religious denomination, labour unions, academics, mayors, city councils, community and human rights activists. He also has a great deal of support in the Puerto Rican community and the wider community in the USA, amongst them members of the Puerto Rican Democrats US Congress. International supporters include Anglican Archbishop, The Reverend Desmond Tutu and the World Federation of Trade Unions (Region of the Americas).  

It is important to note that under United Nations Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 of December 1960, it states that colonialism is an international crime and that a colonized people have every right to use whatever means necessary to end their colonial plight (which includes armed struggle). This international resolution makes Puerto Rico’s colonial reality and the imprisonment of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners an international crime and human rights violations. Puerto Rico's colonial reality cannot be ignored.

The National Boricua Human Rights Network has launched the second phase of the campaign for Oscar López Rivera's freedom! With a letter and fax campaign, the NBHRN are urging the parole commissioners to reject the wrong-headed and politically punitive recommendation of the parole examiner. We ask people to flood the Parole Board with letters. Send to-US Parole Commission, 5550 Friendship Boulevard, Suite 420, Chevy Chase, Maryland, 20815, USA. Please forward far and wide and post and repost. Visit: for more information.

“There is no justification for keeping Oscar Lopez in prison.” said Pedro Pierluisi, a leader of the New Progressive Party.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is in prison because of his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico. He is the last of the Puerto Rican political prisoners still languishing in jail. His continued imprisonment is unjust and his release is long overdue. I urge you to add your voice to the campaign to free Oscar and do whatever you can to publicise his case.


  1. Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?

    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.

    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.

    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?

    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.

    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!

    José M López Sierra

  2. The Second Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2015

    We will be having our 2nd Oscar – Mandela Protest March on Monday, June 22, 2015. We will start marching peacefully at 9 AM from Hunter College on East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, to East 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. We will then go East (turning left) to end up at the Ralph Bunche Park on First Avenue (across from the United Nations).

    We will be at the park until 5 PM. We will be giving out flyers and talking to people about who Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is. We will also be educating the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the government of the United States (US).

    Most people don’t know that every year, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, the United Nations holds its hearing about the decolonization of Puerto Rico. The petitioners will usually join our protest after this meeting.

    The UN determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Since then, the UN has issued 33 resolutions asking for the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. The US government has ignored these resolutions. What kind of democracy is that?

    The US government tries to keep these hearings a secret. What we are trying to do is to get them out of the closet. The UN is in its 3rd decade trying to make the world colony-free. Please help us!

    Most people also don’t know that the United States government takes out 14 times more money than what it invests in Puerto Rico. But, that is what colonies are for!

    This savage exploitation impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to provide opportunities for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans living away from Puerto Rico than in their homeland.

    Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 34 years for his struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico. Since colonialism is an international crime, international law gives Oscar the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize his homeland. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years for doing the same thing as Oscar. This is why we say, Oscar López Rivera is our Nelson Mandela!

    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization invites the public to be part of the tsunami of people that will be necessary to make the US government comply with the UN resolutions. These annual protests in Puerto Rico and at the UN are absolutely necessary, because, those who maintain colonies, don’t believe in justice for all!

    José M López Sierra

  3. To town with Oscar our National Hero
    Click on the above link to watch a video about this project.
    Our partner, reporter and political activist Edwin Chungo Molina is promoting an interesting campaign to force the United States (US) government to release Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.
    Oscar has served 34 years in a US prison for exercising his inalienable right to use all means necessary to decolonize Puerto Rico.
    The US government is the criminal for ignoring 34 United Nations (UN) resolutions asking it to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. In 1960, the UN determined democratically that colonialism is a crime against humanity because it threatens world peace.
    The fact that the US government refuses to release Oscar despite overwhelming local and international support is evidence that it wants to keep Puerto Rico as its colony forever!
    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization joins InformacionAlDesnudo in this project of permanent mobilization in all of Puerto Rico’s 78 town squares to protest for Oscar’s release.
    Starting on January 29, 2016, we will be at the Bayamón Town Square from 2 to 4 PM to begin our permanent and peaceful protest. Join us, and bring your flags and signs to increase the pressure to the necessary level that will force this government to listen to the people like it is supposed to do in a democracy!
    If you would like to be the contact person for your town, please contact Edwin Chungo Molina at 561-758-7509 or Everyone is welcome!