Please, President Obama, FALN Terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera Should Not Go Free
Liz | 12/01 at 09:38 AM
President Obama is reportedly close to commuting the sentence of one of America’s most vicious and unrepentant terrorists, Oscar Lopez Rivera. This must not happen.
Before ISIS, there was the FALN, the most prolific terrorist group ever to attack the United States. The FBI has linked FALN, which declares itself waging war for Puerto Rican independence, to 146 bombings and numerous armed robberies, including the heinous 1975 lunchtime attack on Fraunces Tavern in New York that killed 4 people and injured scores more.
FALN leader Oscar Lopez Rivera is in prison today, convicted and sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy, (trying to overthrow the government), armed robbery, illegal transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property. His sentence was extended for an additional 15 years in 1988 because of an attempted jailbreak.
For decades, Rivera has refused to admit or take responsibility for the numerous terror attacks perpetrated by FALN under his guidance, nor has he expressed any remorse.
Further, he has never cooperated with authorities. The Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion National Puertorriqueno was not only behind numerous bombings aimed at killing and maiming Americans, the outfit also perpetrated kidnappings, prison breaks, arson and armed takeovers of the Democratic Party campaign headquarters in Chicago and the Republican campaign office in New York.
In 1999 President Bill Clinton offered Lopez and several other FALN prisoners clemency; Lopez rejected the offer because it required him to renounce terrorism, and that was something he refused to do.
In 2011 Lopez came up for parole. After hearing from numerous family members of those killed by FALN, who noted that Lopez had never renounced his terrorist past or expressed contrition, parole was denied.
Why would Obama want to commute his sentence? Possibly for the same reason that Clinton offered clemency to the FALN group: politics.
Clinton had happily ignored some 3,226 petitions for clemency that had landed on his desk while president; his singling out the 16 FALN members was no accident. Making the move even more unusual, the prisoners had not themselves asked for a presidential pardon.
But Bill had reason enough: his wife Hillary Clinton was preparing to run for the senate from New York, a state with 1.3 million Hispanics. An advisor of Clinton’s White House Interagency Working Group for Puerto Rico emailed a fellow staff member at the time that freeing the FALN prisoners would be “fairly easy to accomplish and will have a positive impact among strategic communities in the U.S.” In other words, Hispanic voters.
Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, along with leftist activists, had agitated for the release of 16 imprisoned FALN members, arguing that they were political prisoners being treated unfairly.
Hillary, at first supportive of her husband’s move, shifted gears when public outrage mounted over the releases. Among others offended by the releases were members of Congress, which voted by overwhelming majorities to condemn Clinton’s pardon.
Obama, too, is eager to solidify his party’s standing with Hispanics. Hillary Clinton won 66 percent of the Latino vote, down considerably from the 71 percent garnered by Obama in 2012. Though Democrats still have the backing of most Hispanics, they cannot afford slippage in what has become a core constituent of their “base.” But, allowing a terrorist to walk free would be an unconscionable way to gin up support.
There was no excuse for Clinton’s pardon then, as he left office, and no excuse for Obama to consider an early release for Lopez now. Those advocating for Lopez argue that his prison term is overly harsh, but the sentences for the FALN members were reviewed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and found “in line with sentences imposed in other cases for similar terrorist activity.”
It is also argued by some, including U.S. House of Representatives Member Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois), that Lopez is in jail because the U.S. government disapproves of his popular quest for Puerto Rican independence. That is nonsense; in a 2012 plebiscite, independence received the support of only 5 percent of Puerto Rican voters.
Lopez is a terrorist whose conviction and sentence are supported and endorsed by not only the law enforcement officials that oversaw the investigations into FALN’s terror activities but also the families of those killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombings.
In an open letter to President Obama protesting the possible commutation, they write they cannot forgive a man who, “instead of showing contrition, has lied, obfuscated, spoke in circles and denied obvious assertions such as his violent past and FALN leadership.”
Nor should we.