Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Puerto Rico ahead of the commenwealth's June 5 primary yesterday (May 16). While there, he made it very clear that if he were elected president, he would release Puerto Rican nationalist and political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.
"This man is 73 years old and his health is deteriorating rapidly," Sanders said during his remarks at the University of Puerto Rico, as quoted by Latino Rebels. "We are talking about a Vietnam War veteran, who was awarded a Bronze Star, and a respected community activist."
López Rivera, a former leader of the pro-independence Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) paramilitary group, is currently serving a federal sentence for seditious conspiracy, interstate firearms transportation and attempted escape from prison. Aside from the attempted escape charge in 1988 (which added an additional fifteen years to his 55-year sentence), López Rivera's charges stem from an apparent FALN bombing plot in the 1970s.
Sanders also addressed the island's worsening debt crisis, criticizing U.S.-based financiers who suggested the commonwealth close human services to pay. "In the midst of this terrible human and economic crisis, it is morally repugnant that we are seeing vulture funds on Wall Street ... demanding that Puerto Rico fire teachers, close schools, cut pensions and abolish the minimum wage," he said.
(H/t The Associated Press)