Freed Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Phones Maduro, Backs Venezuelan Sovereignty

Newly released Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera held a televised phone conversation with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Wednesday in which he voiced his solidarity with the South American country. 
By Lucas Koerner
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Oscar Lopez Rivera being interviewed on teleSUR. (teleSUR)
Oscar Lopez Rivera being interviewed on teleSUR. (teleSUR)

Caracas, May 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Newly released Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera held a televised phone conversation with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Wednesday in which he voiced his solidarity with the South American country. 

“For many Puerto Ricans, the future of Venezuela is be decided by the Venezuelan people and not by the United States or any other power,” Lopez told the Venezuelan leader during a live broadcast on Latin American multi-state network teleSUR. 

The 74-year-old Puerto Rican independence fighter was released early Wednesday after serving 35 years in a US prison on dubious seditious conspiracy charges over his ties to the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).

His 70-year sentence was commuted by outgoing US President Barack Obama in January in response to a torrent of appeals by social movements and international figures, including Pope Francis and President Maduro, among others.  

Following Lopez’s release, the Venezuelan head of state became the first world leader to talk with the lifelong revolutionary. 

“Long live free Puerto Rico!” Maduro exclaimed. “Long live Venezuela! Long live President Maduro!” Lopez replied. 

In addition to expressing his excitement at seeing Lopez walking free, the Venezuelan leader offered his country’s diplomatic support to the cause of Puerto Rican independence.

“Be assured that from all the trenches, from the Non-Aligned Movement and the UN Committee for Decolonization which we [both] preside over, we are at the service of the dignity and the future of Puerto Rico,” Maduro vowed. 

In past years, the Venezuelan government has campaigned actively for Lopez’s release alongside other regional governments and grassroots movements throughout the world.

In 2015, Maduro offered to release jailed far-right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez – sentenced to over 13 years for leading 2014’s violent anti-government protests – if President Obama granted the Puerto Rican independence activist’s freedom. 

Earlier Wednesday, Lopez Rivera held a press conference in which he thanked all those who worked for his liberation, including Pope Francis, Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Uruguayan ex-President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, as well as the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

He also expressed solidarity with Venezuela as well as “those who defend the Bolivarian Revolution” and urged an end to US intervention in the South American country. 

“I ask the US to stop interfering in Venezuela, to stop using people and structures to reach countries and create a hostile environment with violence,” he declared. 

Following a visit to Chicago, where he spent part of his youth, Lopez plans to return to Puerto Rico where he intends to tour the island’s 78 municipalities and put his skills to use as an organizer.