Lopez-Rivera will be freed in May
President Obama today gave clemency to Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez-Rivera, whose sentence will expire on the 17th of May. The 74 year-old was sentenced in 1981 to 55 years in prison for conspiracy to overthrow the government. In 1988, he was sentenced to another 15 years for an escape attempt. President Obama used his executive power to commute Lopez-Rivera's sentence three days before he leaves the White House and passes the reigns on to President-Elect Donald Trump.
For over 36 years, Lopez-Rivera has been imprisoned for his struggle to free Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule. After his service in the Vietnam War, he returned to his native Chicago to fight for the rights of Puerto Ricans and partook in several actions of civil disobedience. He joined the Armed Forces of National Liberation in 1976. When captured by the FBI in 1981, Lopez-Rivera was accused of conspiracy and for his association with the group FALN.
When captured, he proclaimed himself as a prisoner of war, which is protected in the first protocol of the Geneva Convention of 1949. His proclamation was denied. He was offered a pardon by former President Bill Clinton in 1999. Although the offer for a pardon was accepted, Lopez-Rivera rejected it because he also had to complete 10 years in jail with good behavior. Upon his release, Lopez-Rivera plans to visit his family in Chicago, where he has lived there since he was 14 years old and then to return to the island to continue fighting and organizing for the liberation of Puerto Rico. In an interview, Lopez-Rivera said, "I'm Pepino...I want to enjoy Puerto Rico, my family. But I like to work. I have some skills - organizing, helping young people - that's what I want to share with people."