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Controversial Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera Returns To Chicago

CHICAGO — Throughout many of the 35 times that Puerto Rican nationalist icon Oscar Lopez Rivera was behind barrooms, occupants of one Chicago neighborhood discovered him every day.

Murals and sun-bleached images of Lopez Rivera plastered windows along the “Paseo Boricua” in Chicago’s Puerto Rican enclave of Humboldt Park with contents that called for his freedom and hailed him as a hero for his controversial persona in fighting for Puerto Rican independence. Lopez Rivera invested part of his boyhood in the neighborhood.

On Thursday, Rivera, 74, was given a hero’s welcome in Chicago, merely the working day after he was released from house arrest in San Juan, where he provided out the remainder of his time after former President Barack Obama commuted his 55 -year sentence in January.

Thursday’s events included a procession down the Paseo Boricua accompanied by Rep. Luis Gutierrez( D-Ill .) and other Latino legislators in Chicago, bands, a flotilla and a reception in the park.

Kim Bellware/ HuffPost
Oscar Lopez Rivera advocate Moses Cintron holds a photo of his truck painted with supportive contents.

Some of Lopez Rivera’s older supporters conceived neither they nor Rivera would live to meet him amble free. Others, like Moses Cintron, 68, simply experienced succour after supporting Lopez Rivera for at least 20 years.

Cintron and his wife, Lourdes, drove in from Cleveland to meet Lopez Rivera, whom he had inspected several times while Lopez Rivera was in federal prison in Indiana. He carried with him a picture of an age-old station wagon that he had emblazoned with contents of support for Lopez Rivera. His current truck simply articulates “Free Oscar” on the sides.

” Those notes have been on my pickup the last five years ,” Cintron supposed.

Rivera was sentenced in 1981 for his involvement with pro-Puerto Rican independence activist group Armed Powers of National Liberation, or FALN( and was afterward sentenced to an additional 15 times for allegedly plotting an escape ).

The group was linked to more than 100 bombings that injured dozens and killed five in metropolitans like Chicago and New York. Though Lopez Rivera was never immediately linked to specific bombings, he was convicted on multiple charges that included seditious plot, or plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.

President Bill Clinton offered Lopez Rivera and other FALN members clemency in 1999, but Lopez Rivera rejected it because it has not been able to include all of the jailed associates. Even with the Obama commutation, Lopez Rivera was one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the world.

He received support for his forgivenes from high-profile figures like Pope Francis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .) and “Hamilton” architect Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Some, like Cappy Kidd of Chicago, conceived Lopez Rivera’s sentence was unfairly harsh.

” They kept him in prison all these times because he wouldn’t give up his support ,” Kidd supposed.

But others , notably family members of the victims who were injured or killed in the FALN bombings, have been outraged not only by Obama’s clemency move, but also by the intense substantiate of Lopez Rivera, whom they regard as a terrorist.

Joe Connor, whose father, Frank, was killed in the 1975 bombing at the historic Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan, spoke to NPR in January after Lopez Rivera’s commutation was announced.

” I’m hearing he’s a freedom fighter. He’s done all these things. He’s not violent. But what did he do if not being a terrorist ?” Connor supposed.” There’s no answer to it because he was a terrorist .”

Connor, who was just 9 when his father was killed, was similarly furious over the move by Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican alderman, Roberto Maldonado, to grant Lopez Rivera an honorary street sign in the neighborhood.

Connor told the Chicago Sun-Times in February that the designation was ” a direct insult to my father’s life .”

Kim Bellware/ HuffPost
A photo of the honorary sign erected for Oscar Lopez Rivera in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Melissa Duprey, a 32 -year-old from Chicago, views Lopez Rivera as its significant example for young person, remind members to organize and work for the change they want to see in their communities.

Duprey was more skeptical of the legislators who came out for his homecoming, and assessed their inducements as opportunistic and ultimately undedicated to Lopez Rivera’s ideals.

For Veronica Tirado, a 25 -year-old who lately moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico, Lopez Rivera is still a inspiring and potent represent for young person on the island — to which Lopez Rivera eventually plans to return — and in the U.S.

” His job teaches me that we as a diaspora can make change ,” Tirado supposed. On the island, Tirado supposed, university students and teaches have been fighting the severe austerity measures with a view have chopped education funds. Lopez Rivera, she supposed, are still relevant because” he still imparts us hope .”

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