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  • Puerto Ricans march to demand the freedom of Oscar Lopez Rivera, in San Juan, June 14, 2015.

    Puerto Ricans march to demand the freedom of Oscar Lopez Rivera, in San Juan, June 14, 2015. | Photo: VTV

Published 23 December 2016

Puerto Rico's independence leader, on his 35th year in prison, is Latin America's oldest political prisoner in the U.S.

The Progressive Caucus of the U.S. Congress called on President Barack Obama to grant clemency to Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, who has been in jail in the U.S. for 35 years.

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"Many organizations within and outside the United States have indicated that (35) years in prison for the crime committed by Lopez Rivera has been enough to pay his debt to society, and for that reason, the rest of his sentence must be commuted," said the caucus in a letter to Obama Thursday.

The letter is signed by Democratic Congressmen Raul Grijalva from Arizona, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, and Mark Pocan from Wisconsin.

Grijalva is the minority spokesperson for the Natural Resources Committee which has primary jurisdiction over the affairs of Puerto Rico, and Ellison is one of the main candidates to preside over the U.S. Democratic Party.

At 73, Lopez Rivera is currently serving his 35th year in prison on charges related to his independence activities with the Armed Forces of National Liberation, which fought to liberate Puerto Rico from the U.S., which has held the island as a colony since 1898.

He declined the clemency offered by former president Bill Clinton in 1999 because it was not extended to all who were detained with him. He is the longest-held political prisoner from Latin America in U.S. history.

Manuel Rivera, a lawyer and spokesman for the group Puerto Ricans United in Action said the group had been asking for this letter from the Progressive Caucus for months.

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"We are pleased with the humanitarian effort on the part of Congressman Grijalva's office and the rest of the Progressive Caucus members for the humanitarian gesture they made in writing to the U.S. president to release Oscar Lopez Rivera," said Rivera.

But he added that "we still have to keep fighting until the last day of the Obama presidency. We have to keep calling and writing to the White House and Congress."

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