Release re-energizes campaign to win release of remaining political prisoner, Oscar López Rivera.
NEWS ALERT: For Immediate Release
National Boricua Human Rights Network: www.boricuahumanrights.org
• In the U.S.: Alejandro Molina, mobile 312-296-7210 alejandrom (at) boricuahumanrights.org
• In Puerto Rico: Eduardo Villanueva, mobile 787-612-7840, bufetevillanuevavega (at) gmail.com
CHICAGO – Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres, who was imprisoned three decades ago for his work in support of Puerto Rican independence, was paroled from federal prison in Pekin, Illinois on Monday, July 26, and returned briefly to Chicago to a hero's welcome before his planned move to permanently relocate to Puerto Rico. Spending 30 years behind bars for supporting Puerto Rican independence, he is the longest serving political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico.
Chicago’s Puerto Rican residents held a community celebration with Carlos to mark his return on Monday from 4-6PM at La Casita de Don Pedro Community Garden, 2625 W. Division St., Chicago. Hundreds of community residents and supporters attended the event.
“We are thrilled that he’s finally free,” said his sister Norma Torres. “So many people of conscience have fought for years to win Carlos’ freedom – and that of all the Puerto Rican political prisoners. Now we need to bring Oscar home.”
Torres was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1952, and moved with his parents to New York, and later Chicago. He studied at the University of Illinois in Carbondale and Chicago, worked as a community organizer, and co-founded the Rafael Cancel Miranda Puerto Rican High School, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School. He worked to win the freedom of five Puerto Rican Nationalists imprisoned in the 1950’s, including Lolita Lebrón and Rafael Cancel Miranda. In 1980, Torres was arrested along with ten of his compatriots and sentenced to 78 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and related charges. His years in prison were not wasted: he invested in his fellow prisoners, teaching them literacy in both English and Spanish, earned a college degree, and mastered the skills of painting and pottery making, exhibiting his work throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico— a passion he plans to pursue when he returns to his homeland.
Torres’ father, United Church of Christ minister José Alberto Torres, succumbed to prostate cancer several years ago, unable to fulfill his dream of seeing his son free. Torres wore his father’s sandals as he walked out of prison.
In 1999, in response to a human rights campaign, President Clinton commuted the disproportionately long sentences of 12 Puerto Rican political prisoners, but failed to include Torres, even though some of those released in the 1999 commutations had sentences longer than his, and even though his conduct in prison was just as exemplary as theirs.
Two Puerto Rican political prisoners remain in U.S. custody: Avelino González Claudio, who was recently sentenced to seven years in prison, and Oscar López Rivera, convicted in 1981 of seditious conspiracy, who has served 29 years in prison. López Rivera, a 67 year old decorated Viet Nam veteran, has a release date of 2023. Together with Torres, López Rivera is among the longest serving political prisoners in Latin America.
The campaign for the release of the Puerto Rican political prisoners has won global support from human rights projects and activists, ranging from the United Nations Decolonization Committee, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureates, former governors of Puerto Rico and other elected officials, Puerto Rico Bar Association past presidents, and major religious denominations.
“The reality is that these political prisoners – including Carlos and Oscar – were jailed for decades not for their deeds, but for having the courage to resist colonialism, recognized by international law as a crime against humanity,” said Torres’ attorney, Jan Susler. “While we celebrate Carlos’ homecoming, we must redouble our efforts to bring Oscar home as well.”