Obama commutes sentence of convicted terrorist

Oscar Lopez Rivera was a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a Marxist paramilitary group that aimed for an independent communist Puerto Rico and carried out deadly bombings in the U.S.

Jonathan Ernst—Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his farewell address on Jan. 10in Chicago.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Among the hundreds of pardons and sentence commutations extended by President Barack Obama during his last days in office is Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist and former leader of the terrorist organization Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 1981 for seditious conspiracy, forceful robbery, interstate transportation of firearms, and conspiracy to transport explosives with the intent to destroy government property.FALN was a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group which fought for an independent communist state in Puerto Rico. The FALN seditious conspiracy, with its many bombings of civilian buildings in New York and Chicago, was one of the targets of the first terrorism task force in the United States; the US Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), established in April 1980, had as one of its goals to pursue threats from FALN.In the 1970s, as a leader of FALN, Rivera organized bomb-making factories in his Chicago apartment and later participated in conspiracies to simultaneously bomb locations in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.After incarceration, Rivera had his sentenced lengthened as the result of a conspiracy to escape prison with outside help. The unsuccessful plot to use hand grenades, plastic explosives, blasting caps, and a helicopter to engineer and escape from Leavenworth prison resulted in 15 years being added to his sentence.While López Rivera does not deny or confirm his affiliation with the FALN and disowns any personal involvement in the bombing deaths, FALN was involved in more than 100 bombings in New York, Chicago and other cities. The 1975 bombing at Fraunces Tavernin Manhattan killed four people.The administration of President Bill Clinton offered clemency in 1999 to Rivera and several other FALN members serving federal sentences, on the condition that they denounce violence and terrorism. Rivera refused to renounce terrorism, and thus rejected the offer.Several U.S. politicians, Puerto Rican-American community leaders, and civil rights leaders have maintained calls for Rivera’s release. Others, such as the victims of FALN bombings have remained opposed to the release of FALN members.Former New York City police officer Richard Pascarella, who was blinded and lost five fingers on his right hand in a FALN bombing, stated clemency would endanger the public.”They will again voice their ideology on the American public with a bomb and with a gun,” said Pascarella.Rivera’s release date has been scheduled for May 17.