Oscar Lopez Rivera: The freedom fighter U.S. colonial violence produced

I must admit I have been taken aback by some of the hostility and venom exhibited over the recognition of one of our national heroes, Oscar Lopez Rivera, by the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Committee.  As a First Amendment absolutist, I have always understood reasonable minds may differ as to the actions of my dear brother Oscar about U.S. government colonialism and the political status of Puerto Rico.

Many hold diverse views. We have those who recognize Oscar as a freedom fighter who took on the evils of American colonialism as “a crime against humanity.” As a case in point, some have referred to him as the “Nelson Mandela of the Americas” and look to his imprisonment for 35 years as a violation of international law. He was never convicted of an act of violence and calls for his release ranged from the Pope, Archbishop Tutu, the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, five Nobel laureates, five Latin American presidents, President Carter, Bernie Sanders, Cornel West, Lin-Miranda, Ricky Martin, and every political party on the island.

Another view emerges from those who are not entirely sympathetic to Oscar Lopez who are troubled and differing markedly from his independentista views but supported a humanitarian call for his release and parade recognition. They emphasize the 74-year old has already served 35 years, did his time, was awarded a military bronze medal and, as an act of human compassion, should have been released and deserves to be honored for his years of service to the Puerto Rican community. (See his book Between Torture and Resistance).

The opposition to Oscar Lopez Rivera is focused either on those who are terribly misinformed, characterizing him as an “ultranationalist,” “terrorist,” “murderer,” “communist,” or all four.  Many naively ask, “Why would you Puerto Ricans support a “terrorist?” They are composed of some confused and misinformed Puerto Ricans and Americans and many right wing demagogues.

Let me state my bias at the onset: I belong to the first group. My reasoned perspective as a en educator, lawyer and activist is that Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter struggling for the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people. As a pacifist, I, like Oscar, deplore violence (see Jorge Ramos and Gutierrez interview) and believe that bullets are not the solution, especially those shots that have historically been used by the American government against our people. We must continue to build a unity movement to win the Puerto Rican people’s corazones (hearts). Let me reject a common misconception— to favor Puerto Rican self-determination is not to be in any way against the North American people. We only denounce the actions of the American government done in their name. As freedom loving people, all progressives of conscience should join our cause.

During the last month, listening to the venomous hatred directed against Oscar Lopez and Puerto Ricans I have felt a burning need to respond. Let me share some thoughts:

First, it is up to the Puerto Rican people to determine their leadership whether these opponents like it or not. Part of decolonizing our people is to defend our international and national recognized right to decide. If you don’t like the selection of Oscar as an honoree that is your right but don’t tell us who our heroes are! We have shed much Puerto Rican blood for that right.

Enter Goya Foods, a Spaniard-owned food company profiting from Puerto Ricans for decades now pulls out economic support from the Puerto Rican Day Parade whose theme is “One People, Many Voices” because of the selection of Oscar, a dissenting voice that insulted their right wing purchasers. They ignore all those other “acceptable honorees” like Gilberto Santa Rosa, Iris Chacon, Yandel, the Puerto Rico National Baseball team, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Since they don’t support a diversity of voices, they want to tell us who to call our leaders. That is why I joined the call for a boycott of Goya, we should not support those who in their neo-colonial inclinations say, “We corporations decide or you won’t have a parade.” Never eat food prepared by your self-declared enemy. Every self-respecting Puerto Rican and progressive should boycott Goya.

Second, I point to what I call the selective outrage of these hypocrites.  When we point to the political, economic and cultural violence committed against the Puerto Rican people by the U.S. government, reactionaries respond, we are “changing the subject.” So to these two-faced, duplicitous opponents the bombing of Vieques, the Ponce Massacre, the sterilization of masses of Puerto Rican women, the murder of independentistas, a colonialism-induced 74-billion-dollar debt which has led to mass hospital and school closings, the radiation torture of Pedro Albizu Campos (who they also called a “terrorist”), are not related at all? That is why, like it or not, Oscar Lopez is one legitmate Boricua response to this consistent violence committed against the Puerto Rican people.

I have chosen to use my radio program, the Jordan Journal, on Fridays from 3-5 p.m. on WBAI to call on all supporters of sovereignty for the Puerto Rican people to help me document all the acts of violence committed by the U.S. government against the Puerto Rican people (listen to this message; my contact information is at the end of this commentary). They want to know why we love, yes, love Oscar, because he stood up against all these anti-Puerto Rican government public policies while his critics today were conspicuously silent. Oscar is the fixed point of principle and integrity in a Boricua world filled with many souless politiqueros and accomodados.

For those whot don’t think it’s important and believe “what does that have to do with Oscar?” then that is your deceitful selective outrage. Let’s be frank, if the murder, torture, and dehumanization of Puerto Ricans do not outrage you, then ¡vayasen pa’l carajo! Puerto Rican lives matter. Stop bringing up your phony concern promoting a tragically misinformed characterization of a 74-year-old Puerto Rican patriot. Let’s tell our story.  Please send me your examples of American violence against Puerto Ricans/ I will read the best (worst?) ones on the air next Friday.

Be careful and carefully watch out for the media “divide and conquer” tactics of these detractors.  They have now targeted playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, threatening to boycott Hamilton and have chosen to highlight the statement of the NYPD Hispanic Police Society, supporters of Rudy Giuliani, that they will not attend the parade. The subliminal message is, “We are not anti-Puerto Rican, we have some of your own in agreement.” The Hispanic Society, however, has nothing to say on Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, only Oscar Lopez Rivera. Mejor, now they will have more time to concentrate on limiting the brutalization of Puerto Rican and African Americans citizens by some police who are never held accountable.

The media headline of the NY1 News cable news station:“Top leader of a Puerto Rican militant group that said it was responsible for more than 100 bombings during the 1970s and early 1980s, including one in New York, was freed Wednesday…”  Anti-Puerto Rican NY1 News had amnesia and forgot Oscar was never charged or convicted for any of these bombings in 35 years and was in an entirely different location at the time. Are these “alternative facts”?

My final point, familia, every Puerto Rican and progressive person in this city must join us in marching with Oscar Lopez Rivera at the June 11th Puerto Rican Day Parade. I have had many differences with the Parade Board of Directors — it’s prior corruption and lack of accountability, their poor treatment of legendary activist lawyer Ramon Jimenez — but on this ISSUE WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.

I hope many of our elected officials who supported Oscar’s release — que se han estado escondiendo (who are in hiding) se apreten las faldas y pantalones and will now join us.  Also, I urge you to attend some of the activities honoring Oscar at Hostos Community College and throughout the City of New York.

That week let’s light up Gotham with the love and fire of the Puerto Rican heart by joining Oscar at the parade. Hug Oscar, talk to Oscar, march with Oscar, thank Oscar, show your love for this noble warrior and torchbearer of the Puerto Rican nation who spent 35 years in prison for our right to decide our leadership and break the chains of the American government’s colonial captivity.


Howard Jordán is an educator, attorney, journalist, and political activist and serves as host of the popular radio program ‘The Jordan Journal’ is heard Fridays from 3-5 p.m. on WBAI 99.5 F.M. The Journal is a current event-driven program committed to a cross-fertilization of ideas between people of color and the progressive community in the United States. Jordan is also  Chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Hostos Community College and Unit Coordinator for the Public Policy and Law Unit, where he teaches Criminal Justice, Paralegal Studies, and Public Administration. He can be reached at thejordanjournal@hotmail.com or on Twitter @HJordanWBAI or go to his webpage howardjordan.net for additional information.

(From The NiLP Report)