After eight years, Barack Obama's time as POTUS will be coming to an end in just a few days. With president-elect Donald Trump taking over as the next president, many are scrambling to utilize Obama's policies until they cease to exist. As people rush to make final actions under Obama's presidency, they have one last request from him: #FreeOscarLópez.
Oscar López Rivera is a Chicago-based Puerto Rican independence activist who was sentenced to to 70 years in prison in 1981.
He was convicted of "seditious conspiracy" — devising a plan "against the United States" to further Puerto Rican independence. He has been one of the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico.
López Rivera is dubbed the "Mandela of Puerto Rico."
He was fighting for the anti-colonial principle of no taxation without representation, discrimination, and exploitation of Puerto Rican communities.
After doing community work with Puerto Ricans of Chicago and meeting with families of imprisoned nationalists, he joined the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation) movement, known as FALN. Members of FALN "declared themselves combatants against the US colonization of Puerto Rico" — a US territory.
In 1999, Bill Clinton offered conditional clemency to 14 members of FALN for their release, but López Rivera refused the president's offer.
Between 1974 and 1980, the group admitted to over 120 bombings — no evidence of López Rivera having a connection to these attacks was found.
He did not accept the deal unless every member was freed. According to The Guardian, "López Rivera himself has stated that he considers himself a colonial subject, a prisoner of war, and does not recognize the authority of the US in Puerto Rico."
Since then, many have shown their support for López Rivera and have asked for president Obama to grant him pardon.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders made his stance on the matter very clear on his Twitter in May 2016.
Lin-Manuel Miranda asked Obama about Lopez Rivera a during a White House workshop, and POTUS responded that he had the petition "on his desk."
The petition was created in November 2016 — "Please, President Obama, do what is right and release Oscar López Rivera before your term ends."
It has over 108,000 signatures and urges the president to grant him clemency. "With the election results, now more than ever, we need you to hear the voice and plead of the Puerto Rican people," the petition states.
The White House sent an automated response to the written request declaring that "the White House declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition."
Thousands will be waiting to see if president Obama takes action and grants López Rivera clemency.
He just celebrated his 74th birthday in prison — where he has spent 35 years of his life. In a statement that his daughter released, López Rivera wrote, "Whatever time I have left in this world I dedicate it to work and fight to help solve the biggest problem we face: the colonial status of Puerto Rico."