After months of anxious expectation, the White House has published its list of 231 convicted felons who will received presidential pardons or commutations before Obama steps out of the Oval Office for the last time – and Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is not among the chosen.
The news will undoubtedly come as a huge blow to Puerto Rican activists who were hoping that Obama would make a gesture of goodwill toward the island by pardoning the 73-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist. Indeed, few issues have united Puerto Ricans across ideological lines like the ongoing campaign for López Rivera’s pardon, which garnered well over 100,000 signatures in a petition circulated over the last several weeks.
A former member of Puerto Rico’s Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) – the precursor to the Macheteros – López Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy, interstate transportation of firearms, and a number of other nonviolent crimes in 1981, after being linked to a Chicago weapons storehouse that was discovered years earlier. He and several members of the FALN were eventually offered conditional release by President Clinton in 1999, but López rejected the offer when it included language that painted him as a terrorist.
Many of his supporters have referred to López Rivera as the hemisphere’s “longest-serving political prisoner,” and viewed a potential pardon from President Obama as the Vietnam veteran’s last chance before a potentially lengthy Trump presidency. Instead, Obama focused overwhelmingly on prisoners convicted of possession with intent to sell cocaine and methamphetamine, building on the prison reform work his administration has championed over the last year.
Before the list was published, López Rivera made a last minute plea directly to President Obama, saying that given the opportunity to return to Puerto Rico, “The first thing I will do is kneel down and kiss the ground, and from there on I will share with my loved ones as much as I can, and save enough energy to continue helping Puerto Rico.”
Unfortunately for López Rivera’s, it seems his freedom is now in the hands of an opportunistic, two-bit megalomaniac.