Oscar Lopez Rivera And The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Conundrum
The Puerto Rican Day Parade is the largest gathering of Puerto Ricans in the United States. This year, the parade organizers honored Oscar Lopez Rivera.
In 1981, López Rivera was convicted on federal charges including seditious conspiracy—conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico. In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López Rivera refused to accept the deal because it didn’t include two fellow activists, who have since been released. President Obama commuted Oscar López Rivera’s sentence.
As a result, the police and scores of advertisers and media boycotted the event. Why? More importantly, after the vote for Puerto Rican statehood, what now?
Oscar Lopez Rivera And The Meaning Of Revolution
Representative Jumaane Williams sums it up best. Lopez-Rivera hasn’t been associated with any violent acts. I don’t know why people believe that fighting for freedoms, equality and justice means just writing a letter asking for those things, and they’ll be given. There has been no social justice, no equity, no freedoms given anywhere in this world without some kind of pressure. We celebrate those acts when we look back, but while they are happening, we pretend that these people are crazy and out of control.
We shouldn’t tell people who their heroes should or shouldn’t be. Again, Lopez himself was never associated with any violence. Don’t forget Nelson Mandela was listed as a terrorist well into the 20th century. MLK was one of the FBI’s most wanted men. It all depends on which side you sit. Usually if you’re on the side with power and privilege, you view these things differently than when you’re in the struggle.
Puerto Rican Statehood
Luis Gallardo writes how in spite of being in the midst of an unprecedented economic and fiscal crisis, Puerto Rico held its fifth status referendum in 50 years producing a 97 percent victory in favor of statehood. However, a successful electoral boycott organized and supported by practically every movement, party, and sector other than the ruling party reinforces the beliefs of Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Turnout rates for previous votes on the matter in 2012, 1998, 1993 and 1967 boasted participation rates of 78 percent, 71 percent, 74 percent, and 60 percent, respectively. This year saw participation of roughly 25%.
Every PNP administration since 1992 has dished out a failed referendum on the statehood question. This vote was supposed to be different, as President Barack Obama allocated $2.5 million back in 2013 for the purpose of carrying out a federally-sanctioned status referendum.
The $7.5 million referendum comes at a time where his government is closing up almost 200 schools in order to save $7.7 million in operating expenses. Last April, President Rosselló prematurely pulled the plug on an independent audit that was being carried out on the island’s $73 billion debt, citing that the $2 million that it would cost to audit the debt was wasteful.
I don’t think statehood will be happening anytime soon, and the Oscar Lopez Rivera dream for independence remains alive. Let’s celebrate Puerto Rico and their autonomy, whatever they may choose.