Oscar López Rivera was set free from house arrest in Puerto Rico Wednesday morning after 36 years in U.S. custody, one of the longest times served of any political prisoner in the country.
In 1981, the Puerto Rican nationalist was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his involvement with FALN, a pro-independence group responsible for dozens of bombings on the island as well as New York, Chicago and Washington, DC in the 1970s and '80s. López Rivera, however, was never tied to any of the bombings.
In his last days in office, President Barack Obama commuted the 74-year-old’s sentence, along with 209 imprisoned individuals, including Chelsea Manning, who will also be released on Wednesday.
After the order, López Rivera was transported from a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana to Puerto Rico, where he served the remainder of his sentence on house arrest. He has been staying with his daughter in her San Juan home.
"I never had the opportunity to live with my dad, because I knew him for those 10 years and then he was in prison, so to see him enjoy the space, even though he's still incarcerated, you can see the happiness and joy in his face to sit on the balcony and see more,” his daughter, Clarisa López Ramos, told El Nuevo Dia in Spanish on Tuesday.
López Rivera’s love for his country, and his passion for its freedom from U.S. colonial rule, has not faded – it has gotten stronger.
“In the 35 years I’ve been in prison, I never felt like I was sacrificed or a weight on my back. I never felt siloed, and I never permitted that anything, nothing, nothing, nothing, took away the love for my native land,” López Rivera told Periódico Claridad in Spanish. “I think today I have more love for my land than I felt in 1981, when they took me to court and sentenced me to 55 years. I think this year I have more love for my country than I did that day.”
He added: “I did a few affirmations at the court, and I said that Puerto Rico will be free ... and still I feel the same."
López Rivera, who is considered a hero to many Puerto Ricans, will be met with huge celebration on the island on Wednesday. Next month, he will also be honored at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York.
Welcome home, Oscar!