For years, activists have fought for Oscar López Rivera’s freedom. In 1981, the government found him guilty of seditious conspiracy and other non-violent crimes after linking him to a Chicago weapons storehouse. Originally sentenced to 55 years – of which he’s already served at least 35 – he received 15 additional years after attempting to escape from prison in 1988. The former member of the underground Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FNL) is seen as either a political prisoner and a terrorist around the world. However, few issues have united Puerto Ricans across ideological lines like the longtime campaign for his pardon.
In recent months, the fight to free López Rivera has gained momentum. With the unexpected November election results, some viewed a presidential pardon or commutation from President Barack Obama as a last chance before Donald Trump assumes the role of president for at least four years. Along the way, Lin-Manuel Miranda has used his platform to draw attention to this issue. So when news broke on Tuesday that Obama officially commuted López Rivera’s sentence, Lin-Manuel felt overjoyed. He immediately went on Twitter and shared his thoughts in a series of tweets.
Miranda specifically thanked the Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito – who has fought for Oscar’s freedom for years and continued to do so during Obama’s last days in office. On January 11, she headed to the White House to give Obama 100,000 letters from those standing in solidarity with López Rivera. Miranda also told Melissa to deliver a message to Oscar: “When you talk to Don Oscar, dile I’ve got a show for him in Chicago. It’ll be my honor to play Hamilton the night he goes.”
López Rivera will step out of prison on May 17, so even after three decades in prison, he may see Hamilton before you, and he’ll see it with Miranda in the starring role.
Just before Christmas, the White House published its list of 231 convicted felons receiving presidential pardons or commutations before President Obama steps down, and López Rivera didn’t make the cut. The news came as a blow to Puerto Rican activists hoping that Obama would make a gesture of goodwill toward the island. But today, Puerto Ricans are celebrating.