In light of the intense controversy that followed news that Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera would be honored at the upcoming National Puerto Rican Day Parade, the 74 year old has decided not to accept the “National Freedom Hero” designation after all.
In an essay for The New York Daily News, López Rivera wrote that this is a particularly difficult time for Puerto Ricans across the world and that an occasion that allows the community to come together, organize, and celebrate has been tarnished by what he described as “misinformation about who [he is] and what [he] stands for.”
“I will be on Fifth Ave. not as your honoree,” López Rivera wrote. “But as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather who, at 74, continues to be committed to helping raise awareness about the fiscal, health care and human rights crisis Puerto Rico is facing at this historic juncture.”
Influential sponsors such as Goya Foods, Univision, Corona, AT&T, Coca-Cola and the New York Yankees all pulled their funding and support from the parade after López Rivera was announced as the recipient of one of the parade’s highest honors.
The controversy speaks to divided sentiment among Puerto Ricans on the former Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (“Armed Forces of National Liberation,” known as FALN) leader’s legacy. López Rivera was arrested in 1981 and served 36 years in prison before being pardoned by former president Barack Obama towards the end of his presidency. While some blame López Rivera for deadly bombings committed by his former organization (although he was never directly linked to the bombings) and denounce him as a terrorist, others consider him to be “Puerto Rico’s Nelson Mandela.”
You can read his entire essay here.