Politics & Policy

Honoring a Terrorist at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

Oscar López Rivera at a rally following is release in San Juan, May 18, 2017. (Reuters photo: Alvin Baez)
Oscar López Rivera led conspiracies designed to kill, injure, and maim. He was not a political prisoner.

Why are major sponsors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11 pulling out? In recent days, Goya Foods, Coca-Cola, the New York Yankees, Jet Blue, AT&T, and several police unions have pulled their support from the New York City parade. This development is not surprising given that the parade promoters want to honor convicted felon and FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) terrorist Oscar López Rivera as their first “National Freedom Hero.”

For years, Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D., Ill.) and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito pushed for López’s early release from prison. In violation of Justice Department regulations, former President Barack Obama freed Lopez 34 years early. López’s supporters are not content to see him freed. Now they want to see him honored in the parade for his crimes. In support, they peddle the fiction that he was a political prisoner who was imprisoned by the United States for his ideas. Gutiérrez has gone so far as to liken him to George Washington and real Puerto Rican hero Roberto Clemente.

As one of the federal prosecutors who successfully prosecuted Lopez, I can tell you that he was no political prisoner. Rather, López was convicted by two separate juries for leading conspiracies designed to kill, injure, and maim. In the first case, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy and various weapons charges. He was caught with weapons, his fingerprints were found in bomb-making safe houses, and his own FALN recruit testified that López was personally involved in violent activities. In the second case, he was convicted of participating in a multi-goal conspiracy to escape from Leavenworth, to transport explosives with the intent to kill and injure people, and to use explosives to destroy government buildings and property once out of prison. The evidence ranged from audiotapes and videotapes to testimony from two fellow Leavenworth inmates.

The conspiracy that López was convicted of participating in was the FALN conspiracy. In his conversations with Leavenworth inmates, López boasted that he was the Chicago leader of the FALN. The FALN was an armed, clandestine terrorist group dedicated to the violent overthrow of alleged U.S. rule over Puerto Rico. The FALN was responsible for over 120 bombings, five murders, and numerous injuries. The FALN murdered bankers having lunch in New York’s Fraunces Tavern, innocent bystanders, and law-enforcement officers. The FALN left victims maimed, deaf, and crippled. The FALN left women widowed and children fatherless. In Leavenworth, López urged his fellow inmates to begin their own campaign of “armed struggle.”

In Leavenworth, López urged his fellow inmates to begin their own campaign of ‘armed struggle.’

The basis for honoring López in the New York parade appears to be that he is somehow innocent despite the two convictions and prior imprisonment. The basis for the “innocence” claim is that he was never caught in the act of planting bombs. Unfortunately for López, under established conspiracy law, a willing participant in a conspiracy is responsible for all criminal acts performed in furtherance of the goals of the conspiracy. This is no different from holding Osama bin Laden responsible for 9/11. Bin Laden did not fly the airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the ground in Pennsylvania. But he was the mastermind and recruiter. By his own taped words and actions, López led a conspiracy of “armed struggle” against the U.S. López stupidly believed that he and his co-conspirators could “free” Puerto Rico by planting bombs in New York and Chicago. He is just as responsible as those who planted the bombs.

During this week of more terror-related deaths, this time in Manchester, England, we need to recognize that the nonsense has to stop. As the parade sponsors are just now realizing, for over 35 years Oscar López waged his war against the United States. He never fought to improve the lives of his fellow Puerto Ricans. He never sought to bring aid to the ailing island. Yet, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo still intend to march in the parade honoring López. If the New York Yankees and Coca-Cola can see the truth, why can’t the mayor and the governor?

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