by Prof. Ana M. Lopez


“Crossing Bridges, Oceans and Rivers” to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is the new theme of the monthly vigils that have become a ritual of the group 35 Mujeres NYC x Oscar.  This past Sunday, on June 26th, the 35 women and over 150 supporters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge (the first of its kind suspended bridge created in the new world) as part of their monthly rally to call for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.  The march comes on the heels of a successful call for Oscar’s release this week before the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, where members of the Committee resolved to visit Lopez Rivera in prison at Terra Haute, Indiana and almost all of those giving testimony before the Committee demanded Lopez Rivera’s release.  The all-women group 35 Mujeres NYC x Oscar will be joined by supporters as they launch their summer campaign, “Crossing Bridges for Oscar.”  The group held its first rally in March 2014 and have held their monthly rallies in communities across New York City.
35 Mujeres NYC x Oscar is a group of women from New York City of all stride of life and ideologies committed to securing Oscar López Rivera’s freedom. The monthly rallies for 35 minutes on the last Sunday of every month from 4:00 – 4:35pm to signify the 35 years that Oscar has been imprisoned in federal penitentiaries, and will continue to hold monthly rallies until he is released.  Our rallies coincide with the 35 x Oscar monthly rally that will occur at the same date and time in San Juan, Puerto Rico which are organized and held by 35 women who initiated these public rallies three years ago to mark Oscar’s 32nd year of imprisonment.
The 35 Mujeres NYC x Oscar campaign is dedicated to championing the freedom of Oscar López Rivera, a 73-year old Vietnam veteran who began his 35th year of imprisonment in May.  Oscar was charged with the mental crime of seditious conspiracy – the same as former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela – for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico.  He has never been accused nor convicted of committing a violent act or causing harm or death to anyone.  Oscar is the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner in the history of the nation’s independence movement.  Activists, singers, politicians, actors, students, religious leaders and lawyers the world over have called for his release and clemency by President Barack Obama.
In 1999, as a result of an international human rights campaign, President Bill Clinton determined that the sentences of Oscar and other Puerto Rican political prisoners also charged with similar crimes were disproportionately lengthy and offered to commute their sentences after they had served 16 to 20 years behind bars. Most accepted and were released in 1999. However, under the terms of the offer to López Rivera, he would have had to serve an additional ten years with good conduct in prison. He did not accept the offer, as the president did not include all of his co-defendants.  In 2011, the U.S. Parole Commission denied parole, ordering that he serve an additional 15 years in prison, which would mean serving 45 years in prison for politically motivated offenses where no one was hurt and no one killed.
35 Mujeres NYC x Oscar calls on President Obama to exercise his Constitutional power of pardon, and to grant immediate and unconditional release to Oscar López Rivera.  Until then, we will gather and rally every month for 35 minutes demanding his freedom until he returns home “hasta su regreso a casa”.
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