"Puerto Rico Vive": Venezuela Celebrates Independence Leader's Release

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro lauded Tuesday US President Barak Obama’s decision to pardon Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera.
By Jeanette Charles
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President Nicolás Maduro during Wednesday’s press conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. (Presidential Press)
President Nicolás Maduro during Wednesday’s press conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. (Presidential Press)

Los Angeles, January 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro expressed his support Tuesday for President Barack Obama’s announcement that Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera is set to be released this May. Maduro, former president Hugo Chávez, and Venezuelan social movements alike have historically stressed their solidarity with the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and advocated for López’s liberation.

“This news has shaken me, I am honestly really glad, just as we are critical of President Obama, we have had difficult controversies with him, but we must thank the social movements around the world of whom we form part who have united in this demand that President Obama has granted today with the pardon for our brother, Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López Rivera,” expressed Maduro Tuesday evening in Miraflores Palace.

“Starting now, we are already dreaming of when we embrace comrade López Rivera,” Maduro continued.

On Wednesday, Maduro hosted an international press conference from Miraflores Presidential Palace inviting all Venezuelan embassies and consulates to participate. The conference was transmitted live via Facebook, Periscope and Latin America’s multinationally operated news channel, teleSUR during which time the Venezuelan leader reiterated his support for López Rivera’s liberation and challenged the opposition’s demand for Leopoldo López’s release.

On January 15, 2015, Maduro said that they only way Venezuela would release right wing opposition leader Leopoldo López would be if Obama granted López Rivera’s freedom.

Referring to López, Maduro said, “I made this funny comment [back in 2015], but [Leopoldo López’s] case is in the hands of the Venezuelan justice system… [and] will be processed as such and I hope that there is justice.”

In September 2015, López, a Harvard-educated lawyer and founder of the Popular Will party, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in leading 2014's violent opposition protests that left 43 dead, among them Venezuelan security personnel, government supporters, and passerby. López's attorneys are in the process of appealing the conviction. 

"[López] needs to ask for forgiveness from the victims, for his faults, for his crimes,” the head of state asserted.

Maduro contrasted the case of López to the Puerto Rican independence leader, who was sentenced to 70 years by the US government on seditious conspiracy charges due to his ties to the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). 

“[López Rivera] never killed anyone, he never destroyed anything. The only crime that he committed was demanding independence for Puerto Rico in the 20th and 21st centuries. He has served 35 years for defending, for loving Puerto Rico, which has been under imperialist domination,” expressed Maduro.

Maduro highlighted Venezuela’s historical commitment to Puerto Rican sovereignty citing Simón Bolívar’s mission to see Cuba and Puerto Rico free from Spanish colonial rule. 

“[López Rivera] is a great patriot, Latin Americanist and Caribbeanist who fought for justice and deserves his freedom, which the US has finally granted,” the South American head of state stressed.

Last month, Maduro publicly advocated for López Rivera’s release directly calling on Obama to fulfill Latin America’s demand for his freedom. 

'President Barack Obama, please listen to the claim of Latin America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico as a whole. Please, before leaving, sign the pardon for Oscar López Rivera ... Oscar López Rivera deserves freedom,' he stated.

López Rivera has served 35 years in prison, of which he has spent 13 years in solitary confinement. The announcement of his release has been celebrated by social movements across the globe. 

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