Controversial Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera Returns To Chicago
By Kim Bellware
CHICAGO ― Throughout many of the 35 years that Puerto Rican nationalist icon Oscar Lopez Rivera was behind bars, residents of one Chicago neighborhood saw him every day.
Murals and sun-bleached images of Lopez Rivera plastered windows along the “Paseo Boricua” in Chicago’s Puerto Rican enclave of Humboldt Park with messages that called for his freedom and hailed him as a hero for his controversial role in fighting for Puerto Rican independence. Lopez Rivera spent part of his boyhood in the neighborhood.
On Thursday, Rivera, 74, was given a hero’s welcome in Chicago, just one day after he was released from house arrest in San Juan, where he served out the remainder of his time after former President Barack Obama commuted his 55-year sentence in January.
Thursday’s events included a march down the Paseo Boricua accompanied by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other Latino politicians in Chicago, bands, a flotilla and a reception in the park.
Some of Lopez Rivera’s older supporters thought neither they nor Rivera would live to see him walk free. Others, like Moses Cintron, 68, simply felt relief after supporting Lopez Rivera for at least 20 years.
Cintron and his wife, Lourdes, drove in from Cleveland to see Lopez Rivera, whom he had visited several times while Lopez Rivera was in federal prison in Indiana. He carried with him a picture of an old pickup truck that he had emblazoned with messages of support for Lopez Rivera. His current truck simply says “Free Oscar” on the sides.
“Those letters have been on my pickup the last five years,” Cintron said.
Rivera was sentenced in 1981 for his […]