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Venezuela Is Not Going to Be Alone in Facing famine and Extortion From Wall Street – Puerto Rico Long Ago Was Co-opted By Unsavory Business Dealing

May 27, 2017

Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them

May 22
With cash running low and debts piling up, Venezuela’s socialist government has cut back sharply on food imports. And for farmers in most countries, that would present an opportunity.

But this is Venezuela, whose economy operates on its own special plane of dysfunction. At a time of empty supermarkets and spreading hunger, the country’s farms are producing less and less, not more, making the caloric deficit even worse.

Drive around the countryside outside the capital, Caracas, and there’s everything a farmer needs: fertile land, water, sunshine and gasoline at 4 cents a gallon, cheapest in the world. Yet somehow families here are just as scrawny-looking as the city-dwelling Venezuelans waiting in bread lines or picking through garbage for scraps. 

Having attempted for years to defy conventional economics, the country now faces a painful reckoning with basic arithmetic.

“Last year I had 200,000 hens,” said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. “Now I have 70,000.” 

Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks orfeed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs. 

Venezuela’s latest public health indicators confirm that the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry. The head of the ministry was fired by President Nicolás Maduro two days after she released those statistics.

Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, and 48 percent “at risk” of going hungry.

‘The Maduro diet’

The protesters who have been marching in the streets against Maduro for the past seven weeks scream, “We’re hungry!” as riot police blast them with water cannons and tear gas.  

In a recent survey of 6,500 Venezuelan families by the country’s leading universities, three-quarters of adults said they lost weight in 2016 — an average of 19 pounds. This collective emaciation is referred to dryly here as “the Maduro diet,” but it’s a level of hunger almost unheard-of outside war zones or areas ravaged by hurricane, drought or plague.  

Venezuela’s disaster is man-made, economists point out — the result of farm nationalizations, currency distortions and a government takeover of food distribution. While millions of Venezuelans can’t get enough to eat, officials have refused to allow international aid groups to deliver food, accustomed to viewing their oil-rich country as the benefactor of poorer nations, not a charity case.  

“It’s not only the nationalization of land,” said Carlos Machado, an expert on Venezuelan agriculture. “The government has made the decision to be the producer, processor and distributor, so the entire chain of food production suffers from an inefficient agricultural bureaucracy.

 
Venezuelan anti-government protesters marching to the Ministry of Health on May 22 began to flee as security forces fired tear gas in Caracas. (David Smolansky via Storyful)

With Venezuela’s industrial output crashing, farmers are forced to import feed, fertilizer and spare parts, but they can’t do so without hard currency. And the government has been hoarding the dollars it earns from oil exports to pay back high-interest loans from Wall Street and other foreign creditors. 

Escobar said he needs 400 tons of high-protein imported animal feed every three months to keep his operation running, but he’s able to get only 100 tons. So, like many others, he’s turned to the black market. But he can only afford a cheaper, less nutritious feed, meaning that his hens are smaller than they used to be — and so are their eggs.

“My quality went down, so my production went down, too,” he said.

Escobar’s hogs also are skinnier. An average full-size pig weighed 242 pounds two years ago, he said. “Now they weigh 176.” Last year, he lost 2,000 hogs in three months when the animals got sick and he couldn’t find vaccines. 

The piglets born since then are undersized. Many have bloody wounds at the tips of their ears. “When an animal has a poor diet, it looks for nourishment elsewhere,” explained Maria Arias, a veterinarian at the farm. “So they end up chewing off the ears of other pigs.”

‘There are no profits’

Venezuela has long relied on imports of certain foodstuffs, such as wheat, that can’t be grown on a large scale in the country’s tropical climate. But trade statistics show that the land policies of the late Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor, made Venezuela more dependent on imported food than ever. 

When oil prices were high, that wasn’t a big problem. Now Venezuela’s blend of heavy crude is worth barely $40 a barrel and the country’s petroleum output is at a 23-year low, in part because refineries and pipelines are breaking down and investment in new infrastructure isn’t keeping pace.

The government hasn’t published farming data in years. But Machado, the agriculture expert, said annual food imports averaged about $75 per person until 2004, then soared after Chávez accelerated the nationalization of farms, eventually seizing more than 10 million acres. The government expropriated factories, too, and Venezuela’s domestic food production plummeted.

By 2012, annual per capita food imports had increased to $370, but since then, oil prices have slumped and imports have dropped 73 percent.

Instead of spurring growth in domestic agriculture, the government has strangled it, farmers say. Domestic production of rice, corn and coffee has declined by 60 percent or more in the past decade, according to Venezuela’s Confederation of Farmer Associations (Fedeagro), a trade group. Nearly all of the sugar mills nationalized by the government since 2005 are paralyzed or producing below capacity.

Only a small, well-off minority of Venezuelans can afford to buy much food on the black market, where a pound of rice imported from Brazil or Colombia sells for about 6,000 bolivares. That’s roughly $1 at the black-market exchange rate, but for an ordinary Venezuelan worker it’s an entire day’s wage, because the bolivar has lost 99 percent of its value in the past five years.

Venezuelans who don’t have access to hard currency depend on government-subsidized groceries doled out by pro-Maduro neighborhood groups, or wait in supermarket lines for rationed, price-capped items. Those who join anti-government protests have been threatened with losing their food supplies.

The price controls have become a powerful disincentive in rural Venezuela. “There are no profits, so we produce at a loss,” said one dairy farmer in the state of Guarico, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation from authorities. To get a new tractor, he said, he would have to spend all the money he earns in a year. “It’s a miracle that the industry is still alive,” he said.

Four of his cows were stolen this month, probably by hungry families in the nearby village, he said.

According to Vicente Carrillo, the former president of Venezuela’s cattle ranchers’ association, the overall size of the country’s herd has dropped in the past five years from 13 million head to about 8 million. 

Carrillo sold his ranch more than a decade ago, tired of threats from squatters and rural activists who accused him of being an exploitative rural capitalist. His family had owned the land for more than a century. “I dedicated more than 30 years of my life to this business, but I had to leave everything behind,” he said. 

Escobar, the chicken and hog farmer, said the only way for farmers to remain in business today is to break the law and sell at market prices, hoping authorities look the other way. 

“If I sold at regulated prices, I wouldn’t even be able to afford a single kilogram of chicken feed,” he said.

If it’s not a fear of the government that keeps Escobar awake at night, it’s criminal gangs. Since one of his delivery trucks was robbed in December, he has been forced to make “protection” payments to a mafia boss operating out of the local prison. Every Friday, three motorcycles stop by the farm to pick up an envelope of cash, he said. Calling the police would only escalate the danger.

“I know how to deal with chickens and pigs,” Escobar said, “but not criminals.”

Mayor Landrieu of New Orleans on the Removal of the Statues of the Confederacy

May 27, 2017

ELOQUENT AND ACCURATE
If you haven’t done so already, this is very much worth 20 minutes of your time.

Just watch this speech from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. It is, in my opinion, the single best speech ever given on why Confederate monuments must come down.

The transcript is below:

—-

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.

It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.

But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.

So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.

President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.

As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.

So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence.

To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.

History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.

Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.

Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world?

We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures.

Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think. All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.

We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it!

And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say “wait, not so fast.”

But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”

We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain.

While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts, not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side.

Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”

Yes, Terence, it is, and it is long overdue.

Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history, after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces … would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.

And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.

In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals.

We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America.

Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in, all of the way.

It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes.

Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed.

So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”

So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.

Oscar Lopez Rivera – Independista Nationalista Jefe de Puerto Rico

May 23, 2017
Oscar López Rivera
Political leader
Oscar López Rivera is a Puerto Rican independence activist who was one of the leaders of the FALN. A fugitive since 1976 and indicted in 1977 and 1979, López Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1980 and … 
 
Born: January 6, 1943 (age 74), San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Nationality: American

Oscar López Rivera

Oscar López Rivera
Native name Oscar López Rivera
Born Oscar López Rivera
January 6, 1943 (age 74)
San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Residence San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Known for Longest-incarcerated FALN member
Home town San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Criminal charge Seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and ammunition to aid in the commission of a felony
Criminal penalty Prison for 55 years; extended 15 years for later conspiracy to escape
Criminal status Sentence commuted by President Obama, sentence ended in May 2017.
Awards Bronze Star Medal

Oscar López Rivera (born January 6, 1943) is a Puerto Rican independence activist[1] who was one of the leaders of the FALN. A fugitive since 1976 and indicted in 1977 and 1979, López Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1980 and tried by the United States government for seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property. López Rivera maintained that according to international law he was an anticolonial combatant and could not be prosecuted by the United States government. On August 11, 1981, López Rivera was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in federal prison. On February 26, 1988 he was sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison for conspiring to allegedly escape from the Leavenworth federal prison.

The imprisonment of López Rivera was opposed or supported by individuals and groups representing political, religious, and other constituencies. Some called him a terrorist, but others said he was a political prisoner. Several U.S. Congressmen supported López Rivera’s release from prison.

U.S. President Bill Clinton offered López Rivera and 13 other convicted FALN members clemency in 1999, on condition they renounce violence, but López Rivera rejected it. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted López Rivera’s sentence and he was released from prison on May 17, 2017, after 35 years in prison. López Rivera had been incarcerated longer than any other member of the FALN.[2] On February 9, 2017,[3] he was moved from an Indiana prison to Puerto Rico, where he completed the last three months of his sentence under house arrest before being released on May 17, 2017.[4]

Oscar López Rivera
Native name Oscar López Rivera
Born Oscar López Rivera
January 6, 1943 (age 74)
San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Residence San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Known for Longest-incarcerated FALN member
Home town San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Criminal charge Seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and ammunition to aid in the commission of a felony
Criminal penalty Prison for 55 years; extended 15 years for later conspiracy to escape
Criminal status Sentence commuted by President Obama, sentence ended in May 2017.
Awards Bronze Star Medal
 

Oscar López Rivera (born January 6, 1943) is a Puerto Rican independence activist[1] who was one of the leaders of the FALN. A fugitive since 1976 and indicted in 1977 and 1979, López Rivera was arrested on May 29, 1980 and tried by the United States government for seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property. López Rivera maintained that according to international law he was an anti-colonial combatant and could not be prosecuted by the United States government. On August 11, 1981, López Rivera was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in federal prison. On February 26, 1988 he was sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison for conspiring to allegedly escape from the Leavenworth federal prison.

The imprisonment of López Rivera was opposed or supported by individuals and groups representing political, religious, and other constituencies. Some called him a terrorist, but others said he was a political prisoner. Several U.S. Congressmen supported López Rivera’s release from prison.

U.S. President Bill Clinton offered López Rivera and 13 other convicted FALN members clemency in 1999, on condition they renounce violence, but López Rivera rejected it. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted López Rivera’s sentence and he was released from prison on May 17, 2017, after 35 years in prison. López Rivera had been incarcerated longer than any other member of the FALN.[2] On February 9, 2017,[3] he was moved from an Indiana prison to Puerto Rico, where he completed the last three months of his sentence under house arrest before being released on May 17, 2017.[4]

Early years and personal life

Oscar López Rivera was born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, on January 6, 1943.[5] His family moved to the mainland United States when he was nine years old. At the age of 14, he moved to Chicago to live with a sister. At age 18 he was drafted into the army and served in the Vietnam War and awarded the Bronze Star. When he returned to Illinois in 1967, he became a community activist, advocating for housing for the Puerto Rican community, bilingual education and Latino recruitment in the university system. In the late 1970s he began to advocate for Puerto Rican independence.[6] López Rivera was one of the founders of La Escuelita Puertorriqueña, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center.[7] He was a community organizer for the Northwest Community Organization (NCO), ASSPA, ASPIRA and the 1st Congregational Church of Chicago. He helped to found FREE, a half-way house for convicted drug addicts, and ALAS, an educational program for Latino prisoners at Stateville Prison in Illinois.[8]

FALN activities

López Rivera joined the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN), a Marxist-Leninist organization which in the 1970s fought to make Puerto Rico an independent communist nation.[9][10][6] The FALN was involved in more than 100 bombings in New York, Chicago and other cities, including the 1975 bombing at Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan that killed four people.[2] The FALN was one of the targets of the first terrorism task force in the United States; the US Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), established in April 1980, had as one of its goals to pursue threats from the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).[11]

López Rivera was first linked to the criminal conspiracy carried out by the FALN in 1976. That year, a burglar was arrested in Chicago attempting to peddle stolen explosives. The burglar led the Chicago police to an apartment, nearly devoid of furniture, but in which there were boxes containing explosives and bomb-making paraphernalia, weapons, clothing, wigs, and photographs of Chicago buildings, maps of the city, and several FALN documents, including a manual for guerrilla warfare detailing deceptive practices and rules of clandestine living titled Posición Política.[a] This bomb factory was linked to the owner of the apartment, Carlos Torres, López Rivera, and their respective wives, Marie Haydée Beltrán Torres and Ida Luz Rodríguez. All four became fugitives after this discovery. The four were also linked to the National Commission on Hispanic Affairs (NCHA) of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a charitable organization based in New York City that was meant to fund projects to assist Hispanic communities throughout the United States.[13] In 1977, 11 FALN members, including Luz Rodriguez and Torres Beltrán, were arrested trying to rob an armored truck in Evanston, Illinois. López Rivera was apprehended a few years later when, according to police, he ran a stop sign in a Chicago suburb and provided a false Oregon driver’s license.[14]

At the time of their arrest, López Rivera and the others declared themselves combatants in an anti-colonial war against the United States to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. domination. They invoked prisoner of war status. They stated that U.S. courts did not have jurisdiction to treat them as criminals, and they petitioned for their cases to be handed over to an international court that would determine their status. The U.S. Government did not recognize their request.[15]

Trial

López Rivera was tried in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois in 1980–81. The charges included armed robbery and for being a recruiter and bomb-making trainer in the FALN.[14] López Rivera admitted committing every act with which he was charged, but declared himself a political prisoner and refused to take part in most of the trial proceedings.[16] In August 1981, Alfredo Méndez, one of those arrested in Evanston who had become an informant, testified that López Rivera taught him how to make bomb detonation devices and gun silencers. He also testified that the first bombing in which Méndez was to have taken part planned to target the hotel that housed the offices for the Democratic Party. Méndez stated that other bombings were scheduled to occur simultaneously in New York City, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Speaking on his own behalf during closing arguments, López Rivera stated, “Puerto Rico will be a free and socialist country” and denounced Méndez as a traitor.[14] López Rivera was convicted of “seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and ammunition to aid in the commission of a felony, and interstate transportation of stolen vehicles”.[17]

The pre-sentencing report stated that López Rivera had been:[18]

personally involved in bombing and incendiary attacks across the country for at least five years prior to Méndez’s [sic] involvement and knowledge, has been a prime recruiter for members of the underground terrorist group, and has been a key trainer in bombing, sabotage and other techniques of guerilla warfare. He has set up a series of safehouses and bomb factories across the country, the searches of which have uncovered literally hundreds of pounds of dynamite and other forms of high explosive, blasting caps, timing devices, huge caches of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, disguises, stolen and altered identity documents, and the proceeds of the armed robberies of locations such as a National Guard Armory, Chicago’s Carter-Mondale Re-Election headquarters, radio and communications companies, as well as a variety of stolen vehicles.

U.S. District Judge Thomas R. McMillen sentenced López Rivera to 55 years in prison, calling him an “incorrigible law violator”.[16]

In 1995, in interviews after his conviction, López Rivera neither confirmed nor denied his affiliation with the FALN and disowned any personal involvement in the bombing deaths linked to the FALN. Without advocating violence, he asserted his belief in the legitimacy of political violence: “By international law, a colonized people has the right to fight against colonialism by any means necessary, including the use of force.”[19]

1988 conspiracy conviction for escape plot

On August 20, 1986, a federal grand jury indicted López Rivera and several others for planning to engineer his escape, and that of another inmate, from Leavenworth. The government described plans to use hand grenades, plastic explosives, blasting caps, and a helicopter.[20][b] The government also claimed it knew of a failed 1983 escape plot, but had not arrested the conspirators in order to maintain surveillance of their activities.[23]

The jury deliberated for four days and returned guilty verdicts against all four defendants on December 31, 1987. López Rivera was convicted on five of the eight counts on which he had been charged. His attorney continued to charge the government with devising the conspiracy. She said: “The way this case was done was down and dirty. The Government, through their informants, agents provocateur and undercover FBI agents spent millions trying to create a conspiracy to get these defendants.”[24][c]

On February 27, 1988, U.S. District Judge William Hart sentenced López Rivera to fifteen years in prison. He said: “Those who take up the sword die by the sword.”[25] In December, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the defendants’ appeal, which contended that the government had masterminded the conspiracy.[26]

Imprisonment

Supporters

For many years, numerous national and international organizations criticized López Rivera’ incarceration categorizing it as political imprisonment. Luis Nieves Falcón, a social science professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, has said that López Rivera is “among the longest held political prisoners in the history of Puerto Rico and in the world.”[27]

Cases involving the release of other Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners have been categorized as cases of political prisoners, with some[28][29][30] being more vocal than others.[31][32][33]

Prison experience

After spending twelve years in maximum security prisons in Marion, Illinois, and Florence, Colorado, López Rivera was transferred to the general prison population at the federal correctional facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

His supporters have accused the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons of isolating López Rivera on the basis of his political beliefs.[34] For twelve of his 32 years in prison, López Rivera has been held in solitary confinement in maximum security prisons.[19]

In 2006, a special committee of the United Nations called for the release from United States prisons of all convicted for actions related to Puerto Rican independence who had served more than 25 years, whom it termed “political prisoners”.[28]

Push for clemency

Conditional clemency offer (1999)

On August 11, 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton offered clemency to López Rivera and 15 other convicted FALN members, subject to the condition of “renouncing the use or threatened use of violence for any purpose” in writing. Some had fines reduced to the amounts they already paid and others had their sentences reduced to time already served. Two had their sentences reduced but would still have time to serve, including López-Rivera, whose seventy-year sentence would be reduced to about 44 and a half years, allowing him to leave prison in December 2025.[35] None of those offered clemency were directly involved in FALN bombings that resulted in deaths and injuries. A White House spokesman said: “The President feels they deserved to serve serious sentences for these crimes, but not sentences that were far out of proportion to the nature of the crimes they were convicted for.”[e] President Jimmy Carter had pardoned other Puerto Rican Nationalists on three occasions, including four who wounded members of Congress in an attack on the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954 and one who plotted to assassinate Harry Truman in 1950.[1] Fourteen of the sixteen accepted Clinton’s conditions. Of those, some were no longer in prison, eleven were released on September 10, and one had five more years to serve in prison.[38]

Clinton had been urged to grant clemency by Coretta Scott King; several religious leaders, including retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cardinal John J. O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York, the Right Rev. Paul Moore Jr., the retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York; and by such New York Democrats as Representatives Jose E. Serrano, Charles B. Rangel, Nydia M. Velazquez and Eliot L. Engel.[39] In September, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez said that the charge of seditious conspiracy against the FALN was “a political charge”,[40] and Congressman John J. LaFalce said that it misrepresented López Rivera’s “desire to have independence for Puerto Rico from the United States”.[40]

Gloria Quinones, an activist who had called for the release of Puerto Rican nationalists from prison, expressed disappointment with the terms: “This is an olive branch that the President has extended in the process of reconciliation between the United States and Puerto Rico, but it’s a very scrawny one.” She particularly objected to the requirement that the prisoners not associate with each other upon release.[1][f] On September 21, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Carlos Romero Barceló supported Clinton’s offer and denounced López Rivera for refusing to renounce violence. He told a committee evaluating the pardons that the FALN had operated “by means of violence, threats and terror” and that all FALN members endorsed violence.[41]

Critical reception[edit]

The clemency offer was opposed by bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, which passed a Joint Resolution condemning Clinton’s action in mid-September. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote of 311–4)[42] and U.S. Senate by a vote of 95–2.[40] The Joint Resolution repeatedly labeled the 16 Clinton had offered conditional clemency as “terrorists”.[40][g] Those opposed to the clemency offer pointed to the several charges on which Oscar López had been convicted, including armed robbery, recruiting for the FALN, and training others to make bombs and silencers.[citation needed]

Former New York City police officer Richard Pascarella, who was blinded and lost five fingers on his right hand in an FALN bombing, also opposed clemency for FALN members, stating: “They will reorganize. They will again voice their ideology on the American public with a bomb and with a gun.”[43] Some Republicans said it showed President Clinton was trying to build support in New York’s Puerto Rican community for his wife’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2000. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said: “All of a sudden this president grants clemency, and does it on conditions. And he’s a president who wants to make a stand against terrorism, so it raises very legitimate questions.”[43]

Rejection[edit]

López Rivera rejected the offer because one of its conditions was that he renounce the use of terrorism.[1][44] Others provided other explanations. His sister, Zenaida López, said he refused the offer because on parole, he would be in “prison outside prison.”[1][45] Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said that López Rivera’s “primary reason” was the fact that similar clemency had not been offered to Carlos Torres.[1][46][h]

Opposition to clemency[edit]

Obama’s decision to commute López Rivera’s sentence was condemned by an editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader,[48] and by Charles Krauthammer and Charles Lane.[49][50] On January 20, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Joe Connor, the son of one of the victims of the Fraunces Tavern bombing, condemning Obama’s decision to commute López Rivera’s sentence.[51]

Support for clemency[edit]

López Rivera’s continued imprisonment was opposed by parts of the Puerto Rican community in the United States, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.[52][53][54][55]

Several members of Congress called for his release, including Alan Grayson,[56] Jose Serrano,[57] and Luis Gutiérrez.[58] Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi did so as well.[46]

His release has been demanded by 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners, Coretta Scott King, President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Senator Bernie Sanders as well as an international coalition of human rights, and religious, labor, and business leaders including the United Council of Churches of Christ, United Methodist Church, Baptist Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Church of Puerto Rico, and the Catholic Archbishop of San Juan.[42][52][53][54][55][59][60][61]

Timeline[edit]

2010

  • In 2010, the Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, officially requested López Rivera’s release.[62]

2011

  • Joseph F. Connor, whose father died in the 1975 bombing at Fraunces Tavern, testified at a parole hearing for López Rivera. He opposed parole because he holds López Rivera partly responsible for his father’s death. Lopez’ attorney said “It was very impactful, moving testimony from people who had terrible losses, but it had nothing to do with Mr. Lopez.”[2]

2012

2013

2014

  • A group of young students and workers in Spain joined the international demand for the release of Oscar López Rivera. From February 28, 2014 until April 1, 2014 the Comite 33 días por la excarcelación de Oscar promoted López Rivera’s cause amongst Spaniards. In addition, they collected signatures to ask U.S. President Barack H. Obama to grant him a presidential pardon.[54]
External audio
You can hear a half-hour radio news segment on Oscar López Rivera, conducted by NYC radio host Howard Jordan on WBAI 99.5 FM (on June 6, 2014) Here.
  • In March 2014 the Mexican pop singer Cristian Castro joined the international demand for López Rivera’s release.[53]
  • In early June 2014 the Speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, officially supported the release of Oscar López Rivera.[72]
  • On June 6, 2014 in New York City, radio station WBAI 99.5 FM conducted a half-hour news and interview segment on Oscar López Rivera. The radio segment was conducted by Howard Jordan, the host of the show.[73]
  • On June 7, 2014, Miguel Cotto and José Pedraza called for the release of Oscar López Rivera, lending their prestige as champion fighters hailing from Puerto Rico. Miguel Cotto is the middleweight champion of the world and the first Puerto Rican to be the world boxing champion in four different weight classes. The two fighters appeared with “Free Oscar López Rivera” shirts in the ring at Madison Square Garden, and Pedraza previously wore the shirt in a fight in Puerto Rico.[74]
  • On June 8, 2014, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade paid tribute to Oscar López Rivera. On that day, a contingent in support of his release marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. A week earlier, the June March 1 in Bronx, NYC was also dedicated to Oscar López Rivera.[74]

2015

  • On January 4, 2015, in response to US requests to free the Venezuelan leader Leopoldo López, the president Nicolas Maduro had offered Washington to exchange him “man to man” by López Rivera.

2016

  • On May 16, 2016 Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted, “Oscar Lopez Rivera has served 34 years in prison for his commitment to Puerto Rico’s independence. I say to President Obama: let him out.”[75]

2017

  • On January 6, 2017, Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted, “Feliz Cumpleaños y bendiciones, Oscar López Rivera. Please bring him home, @POTUS, while you still have time.”[76]

Commutation of sentence

On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted López Rivera’s sentence. His release was scheduled for May 17.[77] On February 9, 2017, he was released from the Terre Haute prison and moved to Puerto Rico to serve the last three months of his sentence under house arrest.[78][79] San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, one of the Puerto Rico politicians accompanying Lopez Rivera to Puerto Rico, said that she plans to give Lopez Rivera a job in her administration.[80] According to US Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the release to Puerto Rico came as a surprise to many, as “most prisoners go to halfway houses, [but] he got to go home to be with his daughter.”[81] López Rivera is currently living with his daughter at their home in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[81]

Release

Rivera was released from federal custody on May 17, 2017 after spending 35 years in prison.[82][83]

Writings

  • Oscar López Rivera, Entre la Tortura y la Resistencia, edited by Luis Nieves Falcón, 2011, a collection of letters

Notes

  1. Jump up^ A few excerpts and commentary on Posición Política are available online.[12]
  2. Jump up^ Claude Daniels Marks and Donna Jean Willmott, two of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives of the 1980s, voluntarily surrendered to police in Pittsburgh in 1994 after their attorneys negotiated a plea bargain agreement in return for their pleading guilty to participation in the conspiracy to free Lopez Rivera. In 1985, they had purchased explosives, which proved to be fake, from an undercover FBI agent and had gone into hiding after discovering a listening device in their car.[21][22]
  3. Jump up^ The other defendants were Grailing Brown, a Leavenworth inmate who had been convicted of murder; Dora Garcia, Lopez’s former sister-in-law; and Jaime Delgado. Others were indicted but not apprehended.[25]
  4. Jump up^ The figures are based on Torres and Velazquez’s calculations of a prison term averaging 5.4 years received by those convicted of murder compared to terms averaging 65.4 years given FALN members.
  5. Jump up^ U.S. Government statistics showed the prisoners’ sentences were “about six times longer” than sentences for murder offenses by the American population at large.[36][d][37]
  6. Jump up^ The requirement that the released prisoners not associate with one another was a routine parole board requirement, not a condition set by President Clinton.
  7. Jump up^ The Joint Resolution included these phrases: “militant terrorist organization”, “the 16 terrorists”, “these terrorists”, “these 16 terrorists”, “offer of clemency to the FALN terrorists”.
  8. Jump up^ Torres was released from prison in July 2010.[47]

References

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  3. Jump up^ “Puerto Rico nationalist returns to the island to serve term cut by Obama”. CBS News. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  4. Jump up^ “Puerto Rican militant Oscar Lopez Rivera freed from custody after 36 years”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  5. Jump up^ Méndez-Méndez, Serafín; Fernandez, Ronald. Puerto Rico Past and Present: An Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition: An Encyclopedia. 269: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781440828324.
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b Finley, Laura L. Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia of Trends and Controversies in the Justice System [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 313. ISBN 9781610699280.
  7. Jump up^ Oppenheim, Maya (18 January 2017). “While everyone was talking about Chelsea Manning, Obama released another very important prisoner”. The Independent.
  8. Jump up^ Rosales, Francisco (2006). Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History. Arte Publico Press. p. 159. ISBN 1-55885-347-2.
  9. Jump up^ Smith, Brent L. (1994). Terrorism in America: Pipebombs and Pipedreams. SUNY Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-079141-759-1.
  10. Jump up^ Holcomb, Raymond W. (2011). Endless Enemies: Inside FBI Counterterrorism. University of Nebraska Press (imprint: Potomac Books, Inc. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-59797-361-8.
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  13. Jump up^ Belli, Roberta (August 2012). Final Report to the Science & Technology Directorate: Effects and effectiveness of law enforcement intelligence measures to counter homegrown terrorism: A case study on the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. p. 16.
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  21. Jump up^ Braun, Stephen; Beckham, John (December 7, 1994). “2 Radical Fugitives Wanted by FBI Surrender”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  22. Jump up^ Roberta Belli, page 28.
  23. Jump up^ Roberta Belli, page 25.
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  26. Jump up^ Grady, William (December 25, 1989). “Faln Leader Among 4 Whose Convictions Are Upheld By Court”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  27. Jump up^ Luis Nieves Falcón (December 2, 2011). “Oscar López Rivera, Entre la Tortura y la Resistencia”. Repeating Islands: News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  28. ^ Jump up to:a b United Nations General Assembly. Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Calling on United States to Expedite Puerto Rican Self-determination Process: Draft Resolution Urges Probe of Pro-Independence Leader’s Killing, Human Rights Abuses; Calls for Clean-up, Decontamination of Vieques. June 12, 2006.(GA/COL/3138/Rev.1*). Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York. Special Committee on Decolonization, 8th & 9th Meetings. (Issued on June 13, 2006.)
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  30. Jump up^ “Puerto Rican community celebrates release of political prisoner” Chicago Sun-Times. Report states, “Chicago’s Puerto Rican community celebrates the release of political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres….”[dead link]
  31. Jump up^ “Carlos Alberto Torres, Puerto Rican Nationalist Imprisoned In Illinois For 30 Years, Returns Home To Puerto Rico”. Huffington Post. July 28, 2010.
  32. Jump up^ Martin, Douglas (August 3, 2010). “Lolita Lebrón, Puerto Rican Nationalist, Dies at 90”. New York Times.
  33. Jump up^ “Puerto Rican Nationalist Sentenced to 7 Years for 1983 Wells Fargo Robbery in Conn”. Fox News Network. May 26, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  34. Jump up^ “The Circle Game” Prendergast, Alan. The Denver Westworld. Retrieved December 11, 2008
  35. Jump up^ “News Advisory”. U.S. Department of Justice. August 11, 1999. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  36. Jump up^ The Puerto Rican Movement: Voices from the Diaspora. Andrés Torres and José Emiliano Velázquez. Page 149. Temple University Press. 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  37. Jump up^ The Puerto Rican Movement: Voices from the Diaspora – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  38. Jump up^ “Eleven Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed from Prison”. CNN. September 19, 1999. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  39. Jump up^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (August 12, 1999). “Clinton to Commute Radicals’ Sentences”. New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  40. ^ Jump up to:a b c d “Congressional Record – House: September 14, 1999” (PDF). Frwebgate.access.gpo.gov. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  41. Jump up^ Hearing before the Committee on Government reform on the FALN Clemency, Carlos Romero Barceló testimony, page 23-4.
  42. ^ Jump up to:a b “Congressional Record – House : September 1999”. Frwebgate.access.gpo.gov. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  43. ^ Jump up to:a b “12 Accept FALN Clemency Deal”. CBS News. September 7, 1999. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  44. Jump up^ Bosque Pérez, Ramón. Puerto Rico under Colonial Rule: Political Persecution and the Quest For. State University of New York Press. p. 119.
  45. Jump up^ Babington, Charles (September 11, 1999). “Puerto Rican Nationalists Freed From Prison”. Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
  46. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Letter from Resident Commissioner Pedro L. Pierluisi to President Barack Obama. Pedro L. Perluisi. U.S. House of Representatives. February 21, 2013. Page 3. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  47. Jump up^ Avila, Oscar (July 26, 2010). “Supporters welcome paroled Puerto Rican activist”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  48. Jump up^ “Public enemies: The traitor and the terrorist | New Hampshire”. New Hampshire Union Leader (January 19, 2017).
  49. Jump up^ Krauthammer, Charles (January 19, 2017). “Obama’s self-revealing final acts”. chicagotribune.com.
  50. Jump up^ Lane, Charles. “The Obama pardon you should be mad about: Oscar Lopez Rivera”. chicagotribune.com (January 19, 2017).
  51. Jump up^ Connor, Joe (January 20, 2017). “Alexander Hamilton Wouldn’t Approve of a Terrorist’s Clemency”. Wall Street Journal.
  52. ^ Jump up to:a b c Crean cárcel para libertad de Oscar López. Reinaldo Millán. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 31. Issue 1537. Page 12. May 15, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  53. ^ Jump up to:a b c Cristian Castro se une al pedido de excarcelación de Oscar López | El Vocero de Puerto Rico. Elvocero.com. March 12, 2014.
  54. ^ Jump up to:a b c Boricuas en la Madre Patria inician jornada por la liberación de Oscar.CyberNews. Noticel. March 2, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  55. ^ Jump up to:a b c Oscar López Rivera une a Pedro Julio Serrano y César Vázquez. El Nuevo Dia. May 29, 2013. Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. May 29, 2013.
  56. Jump up^ Grayson Letter Requesting Release of Oscar López-Rivera. Congressman Alan Grayson. January 3, 2004.
  57. Jump up^ Serrano Sends Letter in Support of the Release of Oscar López Rivera.Congressman Jose E. Serrano. November 22, 2013.
  58. Jump up^ “Rep. Gutierrez: “It’s Time” to Release Oscar López Rivera”. WNPR. November 14, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  59. Jump up^ Shane Bauer. “This Man Is Serving 75 Years for “Seditious Conspiracy.” Is He a Danger to Society?”. Mother Jones. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  60. Jump up^ Denuncian torturas a las que someten a Oscar López, Daniel Rivera Vargas, Primera Hora, May 29, 2013.
  61. Jump up^ Osacar Lopez Rivera (February 1, 2013). Oscar Lopez Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance. PM Press. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-1-60486-833-3.
  62. Jump up^ Figuras públicas continúan encarcelándose por Oscar López Rivera: Abogan por la liberación del preso político durante manifestación de 24 horas. El Nuevo Dia. May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  63. Jump up^ Tito Kayak vuelve a enfrentar problemas en el mar. Noticel. July 2, 2012. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
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  65. ^ Jump up to:a b Puerto Ricans Urge Release of Nationalist Prisoner. Danica Coto. Associated Press. San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 30, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  66. ^ Jump up to:a b René Pérez se encierra por Oscar López: Se unió a los reclamos por la liberación del prisionero político puertorriqueño que lleva 32 años encarcelado en los Estados Unidos. Gerardo Cordero. Primera Hora. May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  67. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Gobernador se une petición de excarcelación de Oscar López Rivera. Primera Hora. May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  68. ^ Jump up to:a b Claman por la liberación de Oscar López Rivera. Primera Hora. May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  69. ^ Jump up to:a b Brooklyn Group Rallies for Release of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner. Jeanine Ramírez. NY1 Warner Cable News. February 25, 2014.
  70. ^ Jump up to:a b c Tito Auger ameniza manifestación a favor de Oscar López en Caguas. Primera Hora. May 29, 2013. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  71. Jump up^ Governor Dismisses Serious Crimes Done in the Name of Independence. Puerto Rico Report. July 5, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  72. Jump up^ “Melissa Mark-Viverito turns out to support jailed Puerto Rican nationalist”. NY Daily News. June 5, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  73. Jump up^ “Edited06-06-2014JJournalJoseLopez-Oscar Lopez Brother”. Mediafire.com. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  74. ^ Jump up to:a b McDevitt, John. “Champion boxers call for release of Puerto Rican political prisoner”. Pslweb.org. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  75. Jump up^ “Bernie Sanders on Twitter”.
  76. Jump up^ “Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter”.
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  78. Jump up^ “Oscar López Rivera ya está en su tierra”. Primerahora.com (in Spanish). February 9, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  79. Jump up^ “Puerto Rico Nationalist Unexpectedly Returns After Term Cut”. New York Times. Associated Press. February 9, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  80. Jump up^ “Carmen Yulín defiende que Oscar López trabaje en San Juan” (video). El Nuevo Dia (in Spanish). Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. January 18, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
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  82. Jump up^ “Outrage, elation over Oscar Lopez Rivera’s release and parade honor”. Fox 5. 17 May 2017.
  83. Jump up^ “Puerto Rican nationalist Lopez Rivera released”. Al Jazeera. 17 May 2017.

External links

Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY
The Yankees are boycotting New York's Puerto Rican Day Parade due to plans to honor freed militant Oscar Lopez Rivera.© Charles Rex Arbogast, AP The Yankees are boycotting New York’s Puerto Rican Day Parade due to plans to honor freed militant Oscar Lopez Rivera.The New York Yankees joined the Fire Department of New York City and other high-profile organizations in dropping out of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in response to parade organizers’ plans to honor freed militant Oscar Lopez Rivera.

The Yankees organization didn’t elaborate on its decision, but a spokesperson said in a statement that the team still plans to financially support the parade’s scholarship program:

“The New York Yankees are not participating in this year’s Puerto Rican Day parade. However, for many years, the Yankees have supported a scholarship program that recognizes students selected by the parade organizers. To best protect the interests of those students, and avoid any undue harm to them, the Yankees will continue to provide financial support for the scholarships, and will give to the students directly.”

The June 11 parade, which draws 1 million people each year, also lost key sponsors because of the decision to honor a man considered to be the leader of the ultranationalist Puerto Rican group responsible for more than 100 bombings. Rivera, who was sentenced to 55 years in prison in 1981 after he was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, served 35 years until his sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.

Among the other organizations skipping the parade are the NYPD’s Hispanic Society and Rafael Ramos foundation.

“We understand that others may not be able to be with us,” a statement by the board of directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade said in reference to naming Rivera a national freedom hero. “However, we will continue to represent all voices, with an aim to spark dialogue and find common ground, so that we can help advance our community and build cultural legacy.”

 

Frederick Loeb

May 18, 2017

“Frederick, my father, died thirty years ago, but the loss remains”

 

“Dad was born in 1914 and that house wasn’t built until 1915. The Dennys, who had a similar house next door, built the house. I believe that Richard was born in that house, but he was six years younger than Fred. I don’t know exactly where Dad was born.
I miss that house. I spent a lot of time there with Granny Terese and Grandpa Rudy and Granny Freddy when I was little. I was very sad when I found out that Tom and his siblings had sold the house — not that that surprised me. There was no way they could have kept it after Marianne died — but I would have liked to have visited it one last time. I would have taken pictures of it.”    –  Update from ma soeur 

Image result for 227 summit ave Jenkintown, Pennsylvania picture

227 Summit Avenue  where Frederick was born, and my grandparents were married.  It was a place that we came to almost invariably with tenderness and compassion for my father was a dutiful son.

It is a dreary  day  here in Denver in Capitol Hill.  I have been very ill with heart disease for the better part of three years.  The suffering has increased and despondency reflecting on the quality of life that I have endured since my father died in 1989 on this day.  His loss mirrors the longing I have had always for a place to be still.  Maybe at long last I can emulate his footsteps his great strides to my tiny attempts to keep up with him.  He loved to walk and to meditate. his life was one of sacrifice and great privilege being from an aristocratic Jewish family in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.  The house in which he was born was recently sold. It was the same place that his father, Rudolph built at 224 Summit Avenue, and to which Frederick and I often used to walk to visit his younger brother Richard, who took up residence there and managed the factory that made lace curtains and eventually bed spreads and linens.  Frederick had a difficult time with his brother. He wasn’t treated with love by  either his mother or his brother.  Frederick to the contrary was solicitous and generous , as was his father. Every Loeb male for generations was a family person, adoring and doting on their children and honoring them with lavish affection.  Frederick was the apex of  kindness and generosity. Scarcely could one imagine a more devoted person to one’s family and a willingness to sacrifice everything for their welfare.  Unfortunately for all of us when he died there was no one of his substance, character, and will to follow him.  Except that vicariously his grandson, Lael has passed on this special devotion to his family as a husband and father.  Of my three children Lael epitomizes the sense of justice and spiritual sustenance that has been a part of our family for generations.   This certainly could not be said of my life and although there are women who have devoted their lives to nurturing their children, it was always rare to see this maternal devotion in a father like my son and his grandfather, Frederick.  

One day I look to joining him thankfully and fundamentally and heartily lying down to rest.

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of my father Frederick Loeb:  I feel aching in every pore every ounce every cell as I remember his kindness – he was our champion our nurturing spirit looking over us as some would call an angel but too real for his own good he served gentleness and most took that for weakness. his rebukes were subtle but more powerful than a raised fist or angry torrent I NEVER FEEL I loved him enough or paid him the due he deserved but then he never wanted for anything but to be who he was born to be

 

 

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“My father, Fred Loeb, died on this day 28 years ago. Now, at 5:12 a.m., I sit at my desk, watching the sky get lighter as it would have done that day — the last day of his life. He might have seen it, too. He was very ill. He might have been awake. He died in the evening — after dinner — trying to get up the stairs, to bed. My mother tried to help him. He collapsed on the stairs, and she somehow managed to get him the rest of the way up, to the landing. Perhaps he was already dead. Perhaps she sat next to him while he died. I don’t know. They are both gone now. I will never know. But I think of them and of him and of her often — not only on this day, but every day. Here is my epitaph for him: He was a kind, good, generous man, one of the best. He did everything he could for us, always. He suffered greatly. I hope that he knew that he was loved.”  

de ma soeur – on reflecting about her father

 

 

 

 

People Living in Public Spaces – Intractable?

May 17, 2017

Four Countries The United States Can Look To When Fighting Homelessness

This Feb. 29, 2016, file photo, a person covered in a blanket walks along a street, in Salt Lake City. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER

ThinkProgress has dedicated a portion of our coverage on Wednesday, June 29th to reporting on the state of homelessness in Washington, D.C. This story is part of that series.

Homelessness is an issue for nearly every country. In recent years, the United States has increased efforts to end homelessness around the country. As the U.S. looks for new methods of handling the homelessness issue, here’s a few examples of how other countries have lowered homelessness rates.

Japan

In August 2014, homelessness in Tokyo hit record lows.

“Hiroki Motoda, a metropolitan government official, said support for the homeless offered by the city, including temporary housing provision and employment advice, had contributed to lowering the figure over the years,” the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

While Japan’s homelessness issue is less racially charged, major American cities can take the lead from Tokyo — a metropolis with a population larger than New York and Los Angeles combined. The homeless population Tokyo is less than 700 according to government reports. Tokyo’s population is over 13 million (the greater Tokyo area has over 36 million residents) but in the Washington D.C. — where the population is 672,000 — there are more than 7,000 homeless people.

Denmark

The percentage of homeless people in Denmark is less than 0.1 percent. Denmark’s ‘housing first’ policy helps keep people — and particularly the youth — off the streets. It also matches a strategy that certain communities in the U.S. are advocating for after initial success in Utah. “[T]he public housing sector is about twenty percent of the total housing stock in Denmark,” an essay published by the University of Maryland says.

The country also prioritizes policies and funding for homeless people. Denmark gave the homeless their own cemetery and in the third largest city of Odense, researchers track volunteers to try and figure out how to place infrastructure that benefits the homeless.

Singapore

Singapore has “virtually no homelessness,” according to the Solutions Journal. In 1960, Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party (PAP) put together a Housing and Development Board to build 51,031 new housing units over a five year period. That legacy has lived on in modern Singapore, as government build houses were affordable enough for many residents to buy over the years.

“According to Statistics Singapore, 90 percent of Singaporeans own their own homes today and more than 80 percent live in government-built residential units,” City Lab reported.

The U.S. population could prove a stumbling block in repeating such a task but providing housing and supportive services for more than a half-million homeless Americans would still be less expensive than doing nothing.

Canada  “Public Housing is available in the form of boarding homes funded by Canada’s Government” Editor’s note

In the city of Medicine Hat in Alberta, no person living without shelter goes more than 10 days before the government provides them with permanent housing. This project was started in 2009 and as of 2015 the city’s residents were almost entirely living in permanent housing. “We want to see if it’s sustainable before we announce that we’ve ended homelessness,” Mayor Ted Clugston told the Calgary Herald.

Clugston is a fiscal conservative, according to the Herald, and while he was skeptical of the plan at first, results have changed his mind.

“It makes financial sense. That’s how I had my epiphany and was converted,” he said. “You can actually save money by giving somebody some dignity and giving them a place to live.”

“As was stated at the last meeting of Denver’s Road Home, anything that is done requires capitol.  The Coalition has been pressed more and more to find suitable funding to create housing options, which are always insufficient. “

“Having people out on the street is always a blight that impacts the entire community.”  Homeless people experience trauma at the outset of their lives, often passing genetically from one generation to another.” WE need a comprehensive funded study of the impact of trauma on 15,000 people who experience being without a place to remain except public spaces, which are completely unacceptable.”

Arctic – Atol – Floating Horrors Abound Abroad of Plastic Across the World

May 17, 2017

Arctic  – Atol  –  Floating Horrors Abroad Abound Across the World

 

No one lives on this remote Pacific island — but it’s covered in 38 million pieces of our trash

 
May 16 
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Scientists find 38 million pieces of trash on a Pacific island
 
Researchers have warned that an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, one of the world’s most remote places, is one of the worst affected by pollution from p (Photo: EPA/Dr Jennifer Lavers via Storyful)

Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll in the South Pacific, is so isolated that it’s one of the few places in the world “whose ecology has been practically untouched by a human presence.”

That is, at least, according to its description by a United Nations group, which named Henderson Island a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.

“The inhospitable nature of the island, together with its remoteness and inaccessibility, has so far effectively ensured its conservation,” UNESCO stated. “As a near-pristine island ecosystem, it is of immense value for science.”

In reality, the remote island has become the final resting place for an estimated 38 million pieces of garbage, according to researchers who arrived on its shores in 2015 and were stunned to find the atoll’s once-undisturbed white-sand beaches littered with trash. Nearly all of it was made of plastic.

Researchers believe that about 3,500 pieces of trash are continuing to wash up there daily, and that Henderson Island now has the highest density of plastic waste in the world, according to a report published Tuesday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The quantity of plastic there is truly alarming,” Jennifer Lavers, a co-author of the report, told the Associated Press. “It’s both beautiful and terrifying.”

Images provided by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, where Lavers is a research scientist, show thousands of brightly colored items strewn upon Henderson Island’s sands: water bottles, pieces of netting, plastic helmets, garden containers and other debris so broken down that its original purpose is unrecognizable.

The dramatic accumulation is the result of human activity from thousands of miles away, the report states. Henderson Island is uninhabited and its closest neighbor, Pitcairn Island, lies about 70 miles to the west and is home to only about 40 people. The nearest major population center is more than 3,000 miles away.

However, Henderson Island also happens to be situated on the western edge of a circular system of ocean currents called the South Pacific Gyre, according to the report. Because of its location and the movement of those currents, the island naturally becomes a repository for floating debris from around the world — despite not being home to a single human.

For about three months, researchers stayed on Henderson Island in 2015 and analyzed about 55,000 pieces of the garbage, according to Alex Bond, a conservation scientist who co-authored the PNAS report with Lavers. Based on identifiable markings on about 100 pieces, they determined that garbage had been carried there from China, Japan, South America, Europe, the United States and Russia.

“Plastic is a global problem,” Bond told The Washington Post. “The pieces that we found on Henderson — none of it was from Henderson. … So to tackle it we need global cooperation.”

Among the more shocking discoveries was an adult female green turtle that had become ensnared in some fishing line and died, he said. There also were crabs that had taken up residence in various plastic containers.

“We are not providing them a home. This is not a benefit to them,” Lavers told the Guardian, of the crabs’ makeshift plastic shelters. “This plastic is old, it’s brittle, it’s sharp, it’s toxic. It was really quite tragic seeing these gorgeous crabs scuttling about, living in our waste.”

Bond said the trash on Henderson Island is indicative of how much plastic debris there might be in the oceans.

“Henderson is just sort of an indicator of what’s floating around out there,” he said. “We talk about islands and marine life being a sort of canary in a coal mine for plastics but they’ve been the canaries for almost 20 years now and we’re still not getting anywhere.”

Plastic in the oceans can entangle marine mammals and fish, or be ingested by seabirds. It also never degrades, and can float around in the oceans for years or decades.

Bond said many of the items found on Henderson’s shores were everyday household items: plastic bags, drinking straws, plastic razors, cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, plastic cutlery. He advised people to think about using plastic alternatives — “bamboo toothbrushes, canvas carrier bags, bringing a mug to Starbucks” — to cut down on plastic waste.

“When we dispose of plastics, we think it goes away, but there is no ‘away,’ ” Bond said. As for the plastic on Henderson Island, it is fated to remain there indefinitely.

“Cleaning it up would be a Sisyphean task. It would never end,” he added. “More than 3,500 new items arrive every day. Because Henderson is just so seldomly visited, a beach cleanup for lack of a better phrase is just not feasible.”

A 2015 study found that humans are now putting 8 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans a year. Ocean current systems have also carried floating plastic to other far, formerly untouched corners of the planet: Last month, The Post’s Chris Mooney reported that parts of the Arctic Ocean have become a “dead end for floating plastics.”

“It’s only been about 60 years since we started using plastic industrially, and the usage and the production has been increasing ever since,” Carlos Duarte, director of the Red Sea Research Center at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said. “So, most of the plastic that we have disposed in the ocean is still now in transit to the Arctic.”

advocating – what is meant to love another as thyself?

May 16, 2017
Where do you focus your advocacy work primarily?
neighbors community building human rights for all citizens whether legally present, access to safe secure permanent places to abide.

How does advocating on your own vs. with a group (like the CoPPiR Council) differ? 

there is no distinction

What are 1 to 3 of the most important/useful advocacy skills or tips you use/suggest?

  • listen
  • meet a person whether staff, neighbor, friends, family, where the person is by being ready and willing to feel their perspectives, whether these make sense to you or not,  
  • and always with a sense of trauma historically and newly realized.