Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera is set to receive the Order of Solidarity in Cuba from the Cuban State Council at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana, after decades in U.S. prison for demanding his country’s freedom.
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Lopez Rivera vowed to travel to Cuba to thank its people for their support during the 36 years he spent in prison, a visit he said has become a dream come true.
Upon his arrival in Cuba Sunday, invited by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the freedom fighter said he intends to enjoy every minute he has with the Cuban people.
On Monday, his agenda included a tour of Old Havana, as well as a meeting with representatives of the people and institutions at ICAP, where he was honored. Lopez Rivera will meet with students at the University of Havana and visit provinces such as the eastern Santiago de Cuba, where he will pay tribute to the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro.
Lopez Rivera was born in 1943 in Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago early on. He served in the Vietnam War and upon his return to the United States, he became involved in the fight for Puerto Rico independence.
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In 1976, he joined the clandestine fight for independence as a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation. In 1981, he was captured by the FBI and accused of "conspiracy."
Leaders from around the world, as well as human rights organizations, demanded his release for decades. Finally, on Jan. 17, former U.S. President Barack Obama commuted his sentence and he was released in May.
Lopez Rivera continues to speak out against the 199-year colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States.