Puerto Ricans Use Moment in DNC Spotlight to Demand Freedom for Oscar López Rivera

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Not that it was a surprise, but last night Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic nominee for president. In a more or less symbolic roll call, the DNC called upon delegations from the 50 states and Puerto Rico to cast their votes and put a proverbial bow on an otherwise tense primary season. All went according to plan, with emotional elegies for Sanders’ inspiring campaign mixed in with praise for Clinton’s historic nomination. And then Roberto Prats of the Puerto Rican delegation took the mic.

“The delegation of Puerto Rico [is] the only all-Latino delegation in this convention,” Prats beamed as the convention center erupted in riotous cheers. “La tierra de Sonia Sotomayor… Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ricky Martin, Jennifer López, and many more!” he continued. Described by a local Pennsylvania website as “the happiest delegate at the Democratic convention,” Prats lived up to the hype with his loud-and-proud display of Boricua political and cultural clout.

But that’s not the only thing that stood out about Puerto Rico’s moment in the national spotlight. Hoisted amidst the Puerto Rican and LGBT flags that surrounded Prats were two black t-shirts reading “Free Oscar López Rivera. 35 Years.” It’s perhaps the first time that Puerto Ricans have been able to bring the island’s most galvanizing social justice issue to a national platform, leading Google searches for the Independentista political prisoner to spike immediately after Prats spoke.

However, all has not been entirely harmonious inside Puerto Rico’s delegation. In a press release published earlier this month, Bernie Sanders’ 23 Puerto Rican delegates alleged they were not consulted for the drafting of the Democratic Party Platform’s Puerto Rico Plank, and complained that the language employed regarding the island’s political and economic situation was “superficial and out of touch.”

Included among the delegates’ unheeded recommendations was “recognition that Puerto Rico is a colony, the right for Puerto Rico to determine its future political relationship with the United States, restructuring of government debt,” and of course “the immediate liberation of the long-time political prisoner Oscar Lopez.”