A few days ago, a New York Times headline informed readers that the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade held in New York City would honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, a person they described as a “long-jailed militant” and a “nationalist” — certainly a misleading description of the self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist and terrorist.
If you’re wondering how this could have happened, you should thank President Barack Obama, who paid off any debts he had to the far left by granting Lopez Rivera clemency in the last few days of his administration.
Rivera was a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, whose members pledged to wage war against the United States until Puerto Rico gained full independence. The group carried out more than 100 bombings, the most famous being the deadly 1975 one in Wall Street that targeted Fraunces Tavern, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution. In 1991, Lopez Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison; after a botched escape attempt, the sentence was increased to 70 years.
Actually, when Bill Clinton left office and freed other Puerto Rican terrorists who were FALN members, he also offered amnesty to Lopez Rivera. The terrorist would not accept Clinton’s offer, however, unless all other FALN members still in prison were also freed. Those freed had pledged not to use violence, a pledge Lopez Rivera would not make at the time. Both the House and Senate passed resolutions condemning the pardons. Clinton ignored them.
Lopez Rivera was arrested in Chicago in 1981, with FBI agents finding over six pounds of dynamite in his apartment ready to be used in planned future bombings. He was convicted of transporting firearms and explosives with the intent to commit violent crimes, to kill and injure people, and to destroy government property. He wasn’t charged with carrying out acts of violence.
Denying that he was ever a terrorist, Lopez Rivera explained after his release that he did not “have blood on my hand…that’s why I can’t be a terrorist.” Evidently ordering others to do the actual bombing exonerates him because he only planned the attacks. He also explained that Puerto Ricans are “a colonized people” and that a reading of international law shows that “all colonized people have a right to struggle for independence using all methods within reach, including force.” As he left prison, he thanked Cuba and Venezuela for the support they had given him and his cause.
Most egregious is the announcement that the parade organizers are presenting Lopez Rivera with a reward, officially designating him a “National Freedom Hero,” the first time they have given such an award to anyone. This to a man who proclaimed at his trial, “I am an enemy of the United States Government,” a statement he has never repudiated.
You might question why the organizers of the annual march are holding it in honor of Lopez Rivera, since for decades Puerto Ricans on the island have voted against those favoring independence and have repudiated FALN’s agenda. What has especially irked New York citizens is that New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, is going to march in the front right behind Lopez Rivera and sees nothing wrong with honoring him. The mayor’s statement made at a City Hall press conference reveal that he approves of Lopez Rivera’s goals and only opposes the methods he used to obtain them.
“The organization he was affiliated with did things I don’t agree with,” the mayor explained, “…and they were illegal. I don’t agree with the way he did it. But he did serve his time.” The latter is, of course, not true — since Obama freed him before he was finished serving his term. Perhaps the mayor views Lopez Rivera in the same manner he did the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in the 1970s, when he went as a young man to that country to help the communist FSLN, which he openly supported.
One individual who is not so pleased is 51-year-old Joseph F. Connor, who at age 9 learned that his father had been killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing. “My father was murdered by terrorists,” he told the Times, “and his terrorists were released and offered clemency. His life was valued less than these political agendas that…are driving all this stuff.”
Lopez Rivera is not pleased with those opposing him. After all, he claimed to have seen them at a parole hearing with an FBI agent in 2011, when they asked the parole board not to free him. “At no time,” Lopez Rivera explained, “did they show any respect to me…why should I reciprocate? I wasn’t there to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, I’m sorry.’ That’s not me.” Of course, in his own eyes he had done nothing wrong and was simply waging a battle for the freedom of his people.
The paper of record also informs us that New York City has a “distinctive politics” and that the speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, is Puerto Rican and “has long championed his cause.” This is the very same City Council that two years ago, on what would have been Soviet spy Ethel Rosenberg’s birthday, declared her innocent and gave her two sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol, a plaque proclaiming that the city she had lived in now exonerates her. Last week, Chairman Mark-Viverito flew to Puerto Rico to be with Lopez Rivera to personally share her excitement with him over the announcement of his award and that the parade was to be in his honor.
The parade itself is 60 years old. In the past, its board of directors have been accused of financial misdealing and mismanagement, and in 2014, the state attorney general removed all of its leadership and appointed a new board of directors. Now, this new board, cleared of any taint of corruption, has revealed its own agenda by declaring that the parade, scheduled for next month, will be held to honor a communist terrorist.
And to his everlasting shame, Mayor Bill de Blasio endorses Mr. Lopez Rivera’s explanations and is evidently honored to march alongside him.