Daily Archives: January 17, 2017

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Obama Grants Clemency to Oscar López Rivera

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (l) with Oscar López Rivera (center) and Lopez’s brother Jose Lopez. Obama granted clemency to López Rivera this week. /Rep. Gutiérrez

Oscar López Rivera will go free after 35 years in prison, thanks to President Barack Obama’s order granting clemency to the 74-year old imprisoned on charges related to violent activities in support of Puerto Rico independence.

Community activists in Florida, New York and Puerto Rico had stepped up pressure on Obama – wrote, called, held marches – to draw attention to López Rivera.

The president issued the order Tuesday as part of commuting the sentences or pardoning a total of 273 individuals – 209 commutations and 64 pardons, according to the White House.

Clemency Not Pardon

López Rivera, however, was not pardoned for his bomb-making activities in connection with the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) that is believed to total over 100 bombings, six deaths and many others injured.

A clemency is not a pardon, which means López Rivera’s record is not wiped clean and his rights are not restored.

“These … individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward,” according to the White House statement.

The Puerto Rican community reacted joyously to the news that López Rivera would be out of federal prison in May.

Read Orlando Latino‘s story on López Rivera here.

Below are reactions from local residents and members of Congress.

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

“I appreciate listening to Puerto Ricans and people worldwide who believe Oscar Lopez Rivera deserves a chance to enjoy his freedom.”

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.):

“Estoy lleno de alegría y emoción. Oscar es un gran amigo, mentor, y miembro de mi familia…”

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY):

“Pardon of is profoundly important for all Puerto Ricans. At long last, time for Oscar to come home. My profound thanks to for pardoning – an important and powerful move during last days in office.”

Congressman José Serrano (D-NY):

“Thankful to for listening to our community and putting an end to the imprisonment of after 35 years.

Congressman Darren Soto (D-Orlando):

‘We want to congratulate on his new freedom in May. We also want to thank for doing the right thing”.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY):

“I commend on today’s decision to pardon , granting him freedom and a second chance.  has long served his time & now will return home to be with his family and loved ones.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló:

“Gracias x escuchar reclamo de los puertorriqueños e indultar a Oscar López.Luego de mucho tiempo,regresa a casa y a su familia.”

Playwright Lin Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”):

“Sobbing with gratitude here in London. OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA IS COMING HOME. THANK YOU, .”

New York City Council President Melissa Mark Viverito:

‘TONIGHT! In !! We come together to celebrate w/ FAMILIA Oscar’s release. Pass by! 115th St & Park Avenue. 8PM .”

Marcos Vilar, Orlando community organizer-activist:

“Obama just commuted Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence!!! Coño!!!! Al fin!!!!!

Christina Marie Hernández, Orlando community organizer-activist:

So proud of the thousands who never gave up.”

Fernando Negrón, Orlando radio host:

“En buena hora Mr Presidente.”

Josephine Balzac, Orlando attorney-activist:

“I’m so proud of everyone who advocated for Oscar’s release, this gives the people of Puerto Rico 🇵🇷hope and sometimes HOPE for CHANGE is all you need!”

Jimmy Torres-Vélez, SEIU organizer:

“Viva el Pueblo.”

 Sami Haiman-Marrero, Orlando community volunteer:

“My heart bursts with happiness again! Obama has pardoned Oscar Lopez!”

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Puerto Ricans in Congress to Boycott Inauguration

Puerto Ricans in Congress are boycotting Trump’s inauguration, joining scores of mostly Democrats whose seats will be empty. / Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Three of four Puerto Ricans – all Democrats – in Congress plan to boycott the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, and Nydia Velázquez and José Serrano of New York have stated publicly they won’t be at the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. Central Florida’s freshman congressman Darren Soto also added his voice to the growing boycott of the ceremony.

Raúl Labrador, the Republican Congressman from Idaho and a Trump supporter, is likely to attend the event.

“Looking forward to a productive partnership with . We must change business as usual,” Labrador tweeted earlier.

Growing Boycott

Most of the inauguration rejections – numbering about 40 mostly Democrats and still growing, as of this writing – came after Trump insulted veteran civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis on Twitter right before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, stating Lewis was all talk, no action.

Gutiérrez, who attended George W. Bush‘s inauguration, made a floor speech which he posted on YouTube explaining that “this is different.”     

He continued, “The reason I’m not going is that I can’t bring myself to justify morally or intellectually justify the immense power we’re placing in that man’s hands.” Instead, Gutiérrez said he plans to march with women in Washington on January 21.

New York Congresswoman Velázquez tweeted, “@repjohnlewis is a national hero and I stand with him! I also am not attending inauguration given the tone of @realDonaldTrump‘s campaign.”

Serrano also tweeted but didn’t mention Trump by name. “I will not attend the  next week- cannot celebrate the inauguration of a man who has no regard for my constituents. .”

Central Florida Representatives

Central Florida’s Soto sent a text to Nancy Alvarez of WFTV-Channel 9, stating  ““I am deeply disappointed with Trump’s attacks against civil rights hero John Lewis and will not be attending the inauguration as a result.”

Soto, who represents Congressional District 9 which includes Osceola and parts of Orange and Polk counties, got some immediate pushback on Facebook from Myrna Benítez de Vivaldi.

“This is what happens when you serve your own agenda and not the people. Mr. Soto, you were elected to SERVE a community, people from both parties voted for you because they thought you were a better option so do your work and stop acting like a brat. #Please #HeIsOURpresident #SuckItUpButtercup.”

Benítez is married to Peter Vivaldi, who once ran for the congressional seat that Soto now occupies.

Demings and Murphy to Attend

Unlike Soto, fellow freshman Congresswomen Val Demings of Congressional District 10 and Stephanie Murphy plan to attend, according to Channel 9. However, neither Demings nor Murphy have made public statements about the inauguration, as of this writing.

Demings and Soto are in fairly safe districts, in which either African-Americans or Latino voters, respectively, predominate. They are likely to be re-elected two years from now without much of a hitch.

Not so, Murphy, who ousted veteran Republican Congressman John Mica from Congressional District 7, which includes Seminole and parts of Orange and Volusia counties. 

Seminole County is mostly Republican and party supporters have already targeted Murphy,  looking to recruit a viable contender to take back the seat. By not attending, Murphy would be providing Republicans strong ammunition against her come re-election time.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor