“Adverse environments are a crucible to test your willpower.”–Oscar Lopez Rivera

Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist linked to the radical group F.A.L.N. In the 1970s and ’80s the F.A.L.N. plotted bombings in Chicago and New York with the goal of securing Puerto Rican independence.

In 1981, López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison after being convicted of several charges, including a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments.

In 1988, he received an additional 15-year sentence after plotting to escape from Leavenworth Penitentiary, and was transferred to the high security facility in Marion, Illinois.

Activists have been campaigning for López Rivera’s release for years, a cause which was supported by former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Francis, and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Former President Bill Clinton offered clemency to López Rivera in 1999, but he rejected the deal, which did not include all of his co-defendants.

“Super-Maximum Security,” by Bob Hercules and Rich Pooler, features interviews with López Rivera, as well as Black Liberation Army member Sekou Odinga (who was released in 2014), at Marion Prison. It aired on our program The 90’s in 1991.

Watch the full episode devoted to incarceration:
The 90’s, episode 310: Prisoners: Rights and Wrongs

Additional footage of the Puerto Rican nationalist movement in 1970s Chicago can be viewed at Media Burn.

 

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