On Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera will be released from jail on 17 May. This is a victory for the long political campaign for his release, a campaign to which LALIT added its voice in actions in Port Louis less than one year ago. All 35 of us who were present that day are taking a moment to savour the victory, in times when victories for just causes are few and far between.
Oscar López Rivera, you may remember, has been imprisoned for 35 years in US jails in hideous conditions, with much of his time spent in solitary confinement. In 1981, he was convicted of so-called “seditious conspiracy”, that is working against U.S. continued colonization of Puerto Rico. Interestingly, he could have been freed in 1999. President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the organization he was in (FALN), but Oscar refused to accept his freedom because of the continued imprisonment of two of his maters, who incidentally were later released while Oscar was not. So, the struggle continued.
On 20 June last year LALIT organized, alongside groups in 35 countries, a candle-light vigil with 35 candles, one for each year of his incarceration and calling for his immediate release. [www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1851/lalit-35-candles-lit-for-oscar-lopez-rivera-release]
Earlier on the same day, seven LALIT members distributed bright yellow leaflets in front of the US Embassy on John Kennedy Street, calling for his immediate release. The leaflet linked the struggle for Puerto Rican freedom from colonialism to the struggle for the complete decolonization of the Republic of Mauritius; in particular for the re-unification of Mauritius, by Chagos finally being decolonized and the closing down of the US Military base on Diego Garcia. The event coincides with the Mauritian Prime Minister’s ultimatum to the British Prime Minister to restore sovereignty by 30 June, or else Mauritius will go to the ICJ. LALIT has for years been calling for this.
On the same day, 20 June, there were actions in over 35 countries for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. The day was chosen because the Special Committee on Decolonization of the UN was sitting in order to judge the Puerto Rican issue. The Committee did call for his unconditional release “without delay”.
LALIT has also supported the campaign and petitions for Chelsea Manning’s freedom, and she will also be released on 17 May by a similar order by Barack Obama, commuting her sentence. She was the brave person who released the e-mails that made the public all over the world get a deeper understanding of the way in which the USA conducted its war on Iraq.