Controversial Puerto Rican nationalist saluted in Holyoke

Oscar Lopez Rivera was imprisoned for decades for involvement with militant group

Oscar Lopez Rivera speaks during a Puerto Rican flag raising ceremony in Holyoke.

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Hundreds of Holyoke residents showed up to attend a Puerto Rican flag raising ceremony, in which Oscar Lopez Rivera spoke.

Lopez Rivera was arrested in 1981 and tried by the U.S. government for seditious conspiracy, related to his involvement in a militant Puerto Rican nationalist group, the Armed Forces of National Liberation. He admitted to crimes, including planning to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Lopez Rivera declared himself a political prisoner, and his cause was championed by some politicians and members of the Puerto Rican community in the United States. In his final days in office, President Barack Obama commuted Lopez Rivera’s sentence.

Holyoke City Councilor Nelson Roman said that he is proud of the role that the city of Holyoke played in bringing about Lopez Rivera’s release.

“Holyoke was the first city in New England to pass the resolution asking for President Obama to release him. So, it made sense, and he actually wrote me while he was in federal prison in February, saying that Holyoke was going to be on his stops,” Roman said.

Roman referred to Lopez Rivera as the “Nelson Mandela of the Puerto Rican and Caribbean communities,” and said it was an honor to have him at the flag-raising ceremony.