What Luis Gutiérrez Said About Oscar López Rivera Today on the Floor of Congress

Sep 21, 2016
2:59 PM

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez continued to raise awareness about Oscar López Rivera in a speech he gave to House of Representatives on Wednesday morning. On October 9, a unity event for the Puerto Rican political prisoner will be held in DC.

Here is a transcript of Gutiérrez’s prepared remarks that his office released to the press:

Mr. Speaker:

This past weekend, I visited four cities in four states to meet with Puerto Rican elected officials, leaders and members of the Puerto Rican diaspora about a very important campaign.

I was in Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts, New York, New York, and Newark New Jersey for activities, parades and discussions that were very successful. This week I will be back in Chicago with my fellow Puerto Ricans at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) to honor the organization and to recognize the talent and cultural contributions of Antonio Martorell and Lin-Manuel Miranda who make us all proud.

But I’m not traveling on a campaign for President or for a political candidate; rather I was meeting with people all over about a campaign for the current President to take action before he leaves office in January to free Oscar López Rivera, the last political prisoner from Puerto Rico who has been held for 35 years in an American prison.

No one disputes that the President of the United States has the power to grant pardons, commute sentences, and grant clemency. It is a power the President alone possesses as our chief executive. Congress and the Courts can do nothing to override him in this case.

And Puerto Ricans and allies all over the world are asking the President to grant clemency to Oscar López Rivera.

He was not convicted of committing a violent crime, rather he was convicted of seditious conspiracy – espousing the belief that that the Puerto Rican people are capable of, entitled to, and have an inalienable right to self-determination.

This man, Oscar López Rivera, who is now in his 70s and has spent half his life in prison – is no threat to the United States or Puerto Rico. He harbors no nefarious plot to harm anyone.

He is simply a man who has served an inordinate sentence for the crime for which he was convicted and now, Puerto Ricans want their elder statesman to be allowed to live out his days in Puerto Rico.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, there are few issues that unite the Puerto Rican people more than the united front that is assembling to call for the release of Oscar López Rivera.

Hundreds have already pledged to join with us on October 9 in Lafayette Park in Washington DC to make our unity and our commitment known.

I know from my own experience that too often, Puerto Ricans are divided from each other along so many lines of politics and class and geography. But in this case, in this cause, in the united call – Puerto Ricans are united as never before.

The House and Senate of the Island’s legislature, the candidates for Governor and major office, current and past elected officials, City Councils and municipal governments across the Island from San Juan to the smallest villages support the release of Oscar López Rivera – across party lines, across lines that often separate Statehood advocates and Independence and Commonwealth advocates.

Universities, faculties, civil and human rights groups, entertainers, and the institutions of civic society in Puerto Rico are united.

Practically every Bishop, every denomination, every congregation, parish and church – almost the entire faith community on the Island have called for Oscar’s release.

But it is not just a Puerto Rico thing, Mr. Speaker. It is a movement that has sparked followers across the United States as well.

The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, Communications Workers of America, and other allies in labor are standing up for justice and standing up for the release of Oscar López Rivera.

The ACLU, the Hispanic National Bar Association and religious leaders of all stripes are on-board. The City Council of New York City and the Newark, New Jersey Municipal Council passed resolutions.

And my friends and colleagues on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus here in this Congress – despite Puerto Ricans being only a small minority of our Membership – has joined in the call for Oscar López Rivera to be released and I thank them.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, Oscar López’ case and the call for him to be released has received international attention and validation. Presidents, Nobel laureates, leaders, artists, and activists the world over know it is time to let Oscar López Rivera return in peace to his Island.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop emeritus of the Anglican Church in Cape Town – a true champion of justice across the globe – has expressed his unwavering support for the release of this prisoner.

Mr. Speaker, based on the merits of the case, the outpouring of support, and the moral obligation and power that has been placed in his hands, I join freedom fighters, justice-lovers, Puerto Ricans, working people, and individuals across the globe in asking President Obama to use his pen to free Oscar López Rivera.