CORRECTION: A prior version of this column suggested that the Board of Directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade announced its decision to honor Oscar López Rivera as a "National Freedom Hero" on May 17th, 2017. In fact, that decision was announced on the 2nd, and that line was stricken from the column. Regardless, Oscar López Rivera remains an unrepentant terrorist; his release a grotesque injustice.
The wheels continue to come off of this year’s edition of New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. Major sponsors continue to flee the Parade after its catastrophic decision to bestow upon convicted FALN terrorist Oscar López Rivera its first-ever “National Freedom Hero” designation right before marching him down Fifth Avenue. As leaders such as City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito seek cover from the Oscar blowback, it is important that we take a few minutes to separate fact from fiction, in order to better understand why this is happening.
First and foremost, it is important to establish that Oscar López Rivera is, in fact, an an unrepentant, unvarnished terrorist. His apologists seek to establish morally-equivalent comparisons to Nelson Mandela and George Washington, but these do not survive even the slightest scrutiny (unless it can be established that Washington personally commanded attacks against British civilians on British soil).
But there is one comparison that holds water. Given López’s imprint on FALN operations, recruiting, strategy, and logistics, it would not be a stretch to say that he was to the FALN as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was to al-Qaeda. From López’ presentencing report as cited in the House Government Reform Committee’s report on the FALN clemencies of 1999:
Lopez has been personally involved in bombing and incendiary attacks across the country for at least five years prior to Mendez's [sic] involvement and knowledge, has been a prime recruiter for members of the underground terrorist group, and has been a key trainer in bombing, sabotage and other techniques of guerilla warfare. He has set up a series of safehouses and bomb factories across the country, the searches of which have uncovered literally hundreds of pounds of dynamite and other forms of high explosive, blasting caps, timing devices, huge caches of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, disguises, stolen and altered identity documents, and the proceeds of the armed robberies of locations such as a National Guard Armory, Chicago's Carter-Mondale Re-Election headquarters, radio and communications companies, as well as a variety of stolen vehicles.
Here is additional detail from FALN member María Cueto’s motion appealing her sentence for criminal contempt. López Rivera's fingerprints were later recovered at this Milwaukee FALN safehouse, pursuant to a subsequent FBI raid:
After arriving at the Milwaukee safehouse for the first time in December 1979 or January 1980, Mendez was led to a basement workshop where Oscar Lopez told him that the day’s purpose was to instruct Mendez in the proper construction of various types of explosive and incendiary devices. As is described in great detail in Mendez’ trial testimony against Oscar Lopez, Mendez spent several hours being schooled in the tools and techniques of bomb manufacture. Lopez described and demonstrated the techniques and watched while Mendez practiced. Mendez learned how to alter watches to serve as time delays, and learned how to build firing circuits. Lopez also described the circumstances which led to the New York incident in which William Morales blew off his hands in an FALN bomb factory in Queens, New York. Lopez described how the watch on that particular pipe bomb had been incorrectly altered, thereby causing premature detonation. Throughout the day’s instruction, Lopez had Mendez construct approximately ten (10) timing devices and firing circuits.
López Rivera was most certainly NOT imprisoned for merely believing in independence for Puerto Rico, despite the nonsense that supporters such as San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and rapper Residente irresponsibly float. Such sophistries were crafted with the intent of manipulating the propensity to forgive and forget of the Puerto Rican people when the final commutation campaign was launched several years ago.
Upon reviewing archives of FALN communiqués, statements and other documents, as well as López Rivera’s own statements post-release and his open support of such tyrants as Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, it becomes crystal clear that Oscar López Rivera is no “National Freedom Hero”. Instead, he seeks to subjugate the people of Puerto Rico under Marxism under the watchful eyes of the Castro-Chavista axis. Independence is only a procedural end with which to achieve the final outcome. It is a strange freedom that López Rivera pursues - the freedom to enslave.
Puerto Ricans across the entire ideological spectrum were rightly horrified and outraged upon seeing the ease with which López Rivera praised the Bolivarian Revolution. They saw the Marxist revolutionary for who he truly is, instead of the image of the kindly grandpa that was sold to them by a tiny, radical elite with the willful assistance of a compliant media.
Speaker Viverito and Mayor Cruz (abetted in national Spanish-language media by Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a longtime López Rivera family friend and neighbor) convinced the Parade board to institute this award, but the suspicious timing of its announcement suggests both bad faith towards sponsors who might not want to be associated with such a controversial change in the terms of their sponsorship, as well as an intent to manufacture an appearance of a pro-independence groundswell on the day of a previously-scheduled status referendum in Puerto Rico.
Speaker Viverito was obviously caught off-guard by the swiftness and precision of the campaign to target Parade sponsors, as evidenced by her bluster about “ultra right-wingers” on the island wanting to affect what happens in New York. But, actually, it’s actually the other way around. Folks on the island (and, for that matter, in my home base of Central Florida) are sick and tired of the Viveritos and Gutierrezes and Lin-Manuels and Ricky Martins of the world swooping in and telling them how to live and who to vote for.
Whatever you might think of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, or the issues currently affecting the island; you should not, for one second, believe that this deliberate and concerted effort to honor a convicted terrorist as a “National Freedom Hero” is somehow reflective of the collective will and desires of Puerto Ricans.
López Rivera and the FALN spectacularly failed both to remove the United States from Puerto Rico AND to persuade Puerto Ricans to accept Marxist rule. Therefore López Rivera is a failed terrorist, rejected by the very people he sought to subjugate under the guise of liberation, and wholly undeserving of the honor bestowed to him by a failed parade.