One of Barack Obama’s last actions as the 44th president of the United States was commuting Oscar López Rivera’s sentence. On January 17, Obama announced López’s sentence would end on May 17 – marking his freedom after more than three decades of incarceration. 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. Around the world, people view the former member of the underground Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FNL) as either a political prisoner or a terrorist.
Today,El Nuevo Día reported that López will finish out the rest of his sentence in Puerto Rico after serving 35 years and eight months at a Terre Haute, Indiana prison. Excitement has been bubbling all day, with dozens of Puerto Ricans heading to airport to await his arrival in San Juan.
“I came with the hope of receiving Oscar,” said Nady Pacheco, whose husband and granddaughter accompanied her. “Obviously, I don’t know if I’ll be able to see him. I don’t care how long I have to wait. I don’t care if I can’t see him today. What’s important is that he knows that people awaited his release, and that there’s a pueblo who supports him, that there are people in this country who infinitely appreciate the sacrifice he made on behalf of Puerto Rico’s independence.”
He boarded an American Airlines flight from North Carolina. At 4:36 p.m. local time, López Rivera stepped on Puerto Rican soil for the first time in decades. Unfortunately, the public didn’t get to see him, but here’s how he was received both on and offline: