Editorial, El Nuevo Día
The Primary Responsibility of President Obama
The resignation of the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, represents a new hurdle in the struggle for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, but doesn’t diminish the primary responsibility of president Barack Obama to pay attention to the united demand of all Puerto Ricans supporting their compatriot.
There is no doubt that Holder, who will leave office holding the record for more pro-civil rights initiatives than any other U.S. Attorney General, has been the member of Obama’s government with the most knowledge and activism in affairs concerning Puerto Rico.
During his incumbency he was directly involved in the investigation of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division concerning the violation of such civil rights by the Puerto Rico Police, which resulted in a lawsuit settled by way of agreement that commits the Puerto Rican government to undertake a complete reform of the police force.
In the same way, he was very up to date about the process being followed in Puerto Rico to convene a new plebiscite about status that will require the U.S. Attorney General – in this case Holder’s successor – to approve the definitions of the political formulas to be included in the consultation for which the United States government assigned $2.5 million for use in an educational campaign conducted by the State Elections Commission.
When he was Deputy Attorney General at Justice during the Bill Clinton administration, Holder was also close to the debate about the military operations in Vieques and the clemency granted in 1999 by the then president to a dozen political prisoners of the independentista groups Los Macheteros and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).
At the time, López Rivera rejected the executive clemency offered him, which resulted in his being kept in prison; he has now served 33 years of continuous incarceration, a convincing argument in the non-partisan and humanitarian campaign being currently carried out, in Puerto Rico as well as on an international level, in favor of his release.
It is precisely the role of the U.S. Attorney General to make a positive or negative recommendation to president Obama to exercise his constitutional power to grant the release of López Rivera, who is now 71 years old.
Obama has said that he won’t allow Holder to leave until his successor has been designated and confirmed by the Senate, which is not likely to happen until at least November.
Unless López Rivera is released before Holder’s departure, the process will remain pending for his successor, which some interpret as a new obstacle in the road.
However, other say that Holder, who already had to face the censure of the Republican Congress over the operation against the Mexican drug cartels known as “Fast and Furious,” feared another battle with the president’s political adversaries if he recommended that López Rivera be released, meaning that it wouldn’t necessarily be negative to leave the matter for his successor. However, independent of the obligatory participation of the U.S. Attorney General, be it Holder or whoever succeeds him, in the process for López Rivera’s release we must emphasize that the final determination belongs to the president of the United States.
For this reason, we urge president Obama to attend to, without any further delay, the demand of a people united beyond political partisanship and supported by the international community that waits, perhaps with more impatience that even López Rivera himself, the release of the longest held political prisoner in the United States prison system.
It is the president who must fulfill this moral duty with justice and with democracy.
September 30, 2014