Who Is Oscar Lopez Rivera? Why Artists Like Residente, Ricky Martin & More Are Campaigning for His Release

Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

Residente of the band Calle 13 performs live during a concert at the Huxleys on Aug. 15, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

Latin artists like Calle 13's Réne Pérez, aka Residente, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Rubén Blades have been vocal and active about demanding the release of the Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, who has become the Iongest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico, after being sentenced to 70 years in prison for "seditious conspiracy" back in 1981. 

López Rivera became a well-known activist in Chicago fighting against discrimination, exploitation and police brutality in Puerto Rican communities in the late 1960s. He also advocated for bilingual education in schools. Years later, the Vietnam War veteran was tied to the clandestine nationalist group FALN (The Armed Forces of National Liberation), which was found responsible for numerous attacks against U.S. government areas. Along with several other men and women, López Rivera was arrested and charged with conspiracy to "overthrow the U.S."

"Oscar López didn't kill anyone, he was a pacifist," Residente says during a Facebook Live he recently posted, along with Blades, urging their fans to sign the petition for President Obama to release López Rivera before he ends his term.

"His story has been taken out of context and they've even called him a terrorist but he was only fighting for Puerto Rico's independence ... His family is waiting for him." The "Pa'l Norte" singer adds: "We don't have much time. Our deadline to [get] 100,000 signatures for the petition is Dec. 11. Ruben -- who has always talked about Latin America issues and so have I -- [and I], we ask that you help us with this. 

"It's really just about justice. López Rivera had the opportunity to leave prison years ago with the amnesty, and he rejected the idea because he didn't want to leave behind his close friends who were also wrongfully imprisoned," explains the Panamanian singer/songwriter. 

Acá junto a Rubén Blades en directo solicitando su apoyo para obtener las 100k firmas pidiendo la libertad de Oscar López Rivera Solo tienen que entrar al link, escribir su nombre, apellido y email. Simple

Posted by Residente on Saturday, November 26, 2016

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin took to social media to urge his millions of followers to sign the petition requesting Rivera's freedom before Obama leaves office. "Come on gang, sign and RT for President Obama to free Oscar Lopez Rivera before he ends his term as president." 

Earlier this month, the "Vente Pa'Ca" singer's letter to U.S. Pardon Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer was made public where he asked for clemency on the political prisoner:  

"As a proud Puerto Rican with a passion for protecting and respecting human rights, the plight of Oscar López Rivera is very personal to me. This is a matter of social justice, humanity, and compassion. It is inconceivable that a world which rejects political imprisonment, and decades came together to achieve the long and hard-fought defeat of apartheid and freedom for Nelson Mandela, is the world that still holds López Rivera as prisoner after more than thirty-five years. It is inconceivable that the great nation, which leads worldwide efforts promoting democracy and the protection of human rights, denies the freedom of Oscar López Rivera." 

Back in Oct., Hamilton creator Miranda tweeted: "Please bring Oscar López Rivera home." 

 Will President Obama will pardon López Rivera before the end of his term? That is the question still up in the air. 


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