Archive | July, 2014

20th Anniversary Pa’lante Conference: Education, History and Human Rights

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

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by Laura Corona, University of Illinois student 

The 2014 Pa’lante Conference kicked off on Monday, April 7th with a lively and passionate presentation by Chicago Prisoner Rights Lawyer, Jan Susler, and her focus on the case of Oscar Lopez Rivera. Susler spoke about his incarceration not only as a symbol of struggle for the Puerto Rican community, but how it also highlights human rights violations within the US prison system. Susler was followed by Oscars’s niece, Lourdes Lugo Lopez, donning a t-shirt with his image. Both Susler and Lugo Lopez urged the audience to take their knowledge of the situation and turn it into action, citing the petition of the National Boricua Human Rights Network (http://boricuahumanrights.org/). The discussion ended with the speakers confident in Oscar’s release, and the ultimate joy it will bring to Puerto Ricans and human rights activists.

That afternoon, former Chicago Alderman and now 11-term Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez read excerpts from his book, Still Dreaming: From the Barrio to Capitol Hill. His excerpts served as a reflection on his status as a U.S.-born Puerto Rican, and how that excluded him culturally from both the island and full acceptance in the U.S., and ultimately feeling like an outsider on both lands. Congressman Gutierrez has fought for the rights of immigrants and the working class, and he emphasized the right and responsibility of the Latino vote.

On Tuesday, April 8th, we hosted a light but philosophical panel discussion with past Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) Presidents. The discussion covered the ideas that UPRS shifted to a much more feminine approach, considering that many of its members were woman, and grew more active in the Latina community. Each panel member discussed their struggles and stories within UPRS.

On Wednesday, April 9th, the Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center was graced with the presence of one of the men who envisioned its conception: UIC alum, Edwin Cortes. When I think of a community organizer and political prisoner, I would not have imagined such a gentle and thoughtful man as Edwin. He reflected on the Latino youth activism at UIC which fought for a Latino Studies department, a Latino college recruitment program, and a dedicated physical space for Latinos at the University. Today, we enjoy all of these services, and should not take them for granted. Edwin pointed out the great inequality of the large Latino population at UIC, compared to the miniscule representation we have in student government. As a lifelong political and community activist, Edwin advocates for sustainability and ownership of our culture both locally at UIC (as student involvement efforts are facing severe budget cuts), but also on a global level.

On Thursday, April 10, a group of seniors from Roberto Clemente Community Academy and Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School came to UIC to shadow current UIC students. Most of the high school seniors had already applied or been accepted to UIC, and this day was a great opportunity for them to live a day on campus. The group toured the dorms, computer labs, cafeterias, bowling alley, library, recreation facility, and writing center, all on the East Campus. The Shadow Day allowed current UIC students to share what they loved most about the campus, and what they wished they had known as incoming freshmen.

That evening we hosted Noche de Poetas, and were honored to hear from two very talented performers. The first was Emanuel Emilio Cruz, an incredibly talented Puerto Rican- born singer and songwriter. This was his first visit to Chicago, and he was so impressed with the tight knit Latino and Puerto Rican communities at UIC and the Humboldt Park neighborhoods. He was followed by female rapper Pinqy Rinq, a Chicago native and also UIC alum! Pinqy Rinq performed several of her powerful and moving works which touched on the themes of cultural pride, personal identity, femi- nism, sexual abuse victims and survivors, and battling the national media portrayal of Latinos and crime in Chicago. We closed the night with a reading of a group poem that was written line by line by the attendants. The end result was utterly remarkable: a single cry of many voices rejoicing over the trials and tribulations of our communities, and toasting to our permanent presence and future prosperity.

On the last day of the conference, Friday, April 11th, prominent Puerto Rican lawyer and scholar, Jose Enrique Ayora Santaliz gave a lecture celebrating the life and accomplishments of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Albizu Campos is recognized widely for his politics and leading the Puerto Rican independence movement, but Jose’s lecture was more commemorative than academic. Jose praised Don Pedro as the “voice of conscience”. Born under terrible circumstances, Albizu Campos met the early 1900s as an illegitmate son, poor, black, and orphaned at the age of 4. He attended school and was quickly identified as a child prodigy. He went on to study chemistry at the University of Vermont, and later Mastered in Law, Philosophy, and Military sciences at Harvard. Upon graduation, he moved back to the island and lived well below his means with his equally intelligent Peruvian wife. They chose to educate their fellow Puerto Ricans on island history, and gave free lectures in the outdoor plazas to children and adults about the great leaders and fighters of Puerto Rico and Latin America. Jose asked us to tip our hats to this great man, “El Maestro”, for his everlasting contributions.

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The “Borinqueneers” Finally Receive Their Due:

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

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  •  Honored at Capitol Hill
  •  Celebrated in New York National Puerto Rican Parade and in Chicago Puerto Rican People’s Parade
  •  Memorialized by Norwegian American Hospital and Hispanic Housing with Latino New Housing

On May 22, the US Senate passed a bill awarding the 65th Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature. The following is a partial statement issued by the Congressional Gold Medal Alliance which led the national grass roots effort to bestow this honor.

The campaign to raise awareness of the Borinqueneers has been felt in many cities in the Puerto Rican diaspora.In New York, the National Puerto Rican Parade, to be held ion Sunday, June 8, is paying special tribute to the Borinqueneers.

In Chicago, the following 2 major developments to memorialize the Borinqueneers have been undertaken: 1) Hispanic Housing and Norwegian American Hospital have partnered to create a housing complex for Latino veterans which will be named the “The Borinqueneers”; 2) the Annual Puerto Rican Parade will be dedicated to the Borinqueneers  along with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of Roberto Clemente Community Academy. 

“Honoring the only Hispanic segregated active-duty military unit in U.S. History, the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers,” with the Congressional Gold Medal took a major leap forward this week when both House Bill (HR 1726) and Senate Bill (S. 1174) both passed their respective chambers.

 As the Memorial Day weekend looms, the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the “Borinqueneers” achieved two major milestones in achieving the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM). The U.S. Senate bill S. 1174 which authorizes the “Borinqueneers” with the CGM passed today by unanimous vote.  On Monday, the House companion bill H.R. 1726, also passed unanimously. These two milestones unfolded about year’s timeframe from when both bills were originally introduced in their respective chambers. The CGM recognition parallels the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is awarded less frequently and is arguably more rigorous due to its stringent legislative requirements. The Borinqueneers CGM legislation is now on its path to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

 The movement behind this cause primarily originated with a grassroots volunteer group called the “Borinqueneers CGM Alliance” (BCGMA) founded by former Army Captain and Iraq War veteran, Frank Medina and sponsored by the You Are Strong! (YAS!) Center for Veterans Health and Human Services.

Frank recounts, “It’s amazing how the collective and cumulative efforts from devoted individuals and organizations around the country culminated in this landmark achievement. The 65th CGM cause transcended all races, ethnicities, nationalities in unifying for a noble and righteous cause. Volunteers encompassed Anglos, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native-Americans, Colombians and various others…This could not have happened without their aggressive ‘boots on ground’ support…”

 Medina also adds, “I want to express my deepest appreciation to our Congressional sponsors, Rep. Pierluisi, Rep. Posey, and Sen. Blumenthal along with their superb staffers. They tackled and shouldered the lion’s share of this endeavor and I it was very fortuitous that our joint efforts were complimentary. Without their tenacity, this could not have been possible…”

 Awarding the CGM to the Borinqueneers will sit alongside other segregated military units that have rightfully received the Congressional Gold Medal including the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers and many other Native American tribes, Nisei Soldiers, and Montford Point Marines.”

 The history of the 65th Infantry goes back to 1899 after the US invasion of Puerto Rico and the ceding by Spain of the island following the Spanish American War. The unit participated in WW I, II and most notably, the Korean War. A remnant battalion from the 65th Infantry still resides in the Puerto Rican National Guard.  At the onset of the Korean War, the 65th Infantry dubbed themselves the anglicized nickname “Borinqueneers” after the island of Puerto Rico’s indigenous name “Borinquen” meaning “Land of the Noble People”.

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Community welcomes Elvira to Paseo Boricua

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

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On Sunday, March 23, 2014, members of the Humboldt Park community welcomed back Elvira Arellano at Adalberto Church. The church was packed with supporters. Community members made reflections on Elvira’s behalf. Elvira spoke about her activism in support of undocumented people in the US, but also on her work with Central American undocumented people in Mexico. Elvira, Emma Lozano and others made a call to continue fighting for immigration reform and encouraged people to participate in an action at ICE headquarters on Thursday, March 27. They demanded that President Obama extend de- ferred action to all undocumented people in the US. The event was widely covered by the media including live transmission on Channel 5 and Telemundo and the Chicago Tribune and Hoy Newspapers. Elvira will live in Humboldt Park and will continue her commitment to end the slave labor status of the 12 millon undocumented in the US.

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BOMBA as we know it

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

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By Brenda Torres Figueroa 

Bomba is the oldest musical genre from Puerto Rico existing today; having its origins in the plantations of the Island where Africans were brought into slavery. As documented, slaves constructed drums using barrels and other discarded materials and rejoiced around them on their day off. These gatherings, as said, were used by slaves to communicate with other plantations and plan uprisings and escapes before slavery was abolished in 1873. This tradition, that has been four hundred years in the making, speaks of ongoing struggles, resistance and aim for freedom that still define our culture, politics and identity. Bomba is not only African, bomba emerges from our “identidad criolla”, rooted in the spiritual and political transformation of our people and our culture as a mixture of Europeans, African and the natives Tainos.

Bomba elements include percussion instruments, dancing, singing and story telling. The drums used in bomba are known as “Barriles”; with them, different rhythms are produced accompanied by a maraca, the cua, the singers and the dancer. Technically, Bomba like many traditional African dances, consists of a communication between the dancer and the “subidor”, echoed by a sustained rhythm played by the “buleadores” (remaining drummers). Practitioners and enthusiasts of Bomba have no particular age, color, religion, education and socio-economical background. Bom- ba has been able to connect us with a deeper understanding of our heritage and its power of liberation, unification and preservation of community all of which preserve our culture, particularly here in our very own Paseo Boricua.

El que no tiene de dinga, tiene de mandinga”… refers to a Puerto Rican saying that we are all connected through a rich African tapestry. In year 2000, Tito Rodriguez founded in Humboldt Park, AfriCaribe, a non-profit organization that offers Bomba dancing and percussion classes. Classes at the Academy prepare students to perform rhythms of Bomba that includes sica, yuba, cuembe, holande and seis corrido. Learning bomba is not limited to performing a solo dance at the Batey, but it helps build fluency through developing movement, timing and control, it also helps develop an improvisational character that can relates to the dancer’s personal story and emotions and a connection with the community and space we share.

The traditional bomba dance (Bombazos) has also been featured in Paseo Boricua as an example of the consistent dedication to this particular genre that has also nurtured the creation of groups like AfriCaribe Performing Ensemble, Cocobale, Inaru, Bompleneras, Nuestro Tambo, Grupo Buya among many others. It’s also nurtured cultural centers such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis dedicated to preserving this rich tradition in the Chicago area. Classes at AfriCaribe will begin on Saturday, April 26, 2014. For a complete schedule and information of registration and performances, find AfriCaribe on Facebook or call 773. 879.2123.

 

 

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Dr. Cornel West Calls for Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

Dr. Cornel West Calls for Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera Expressions of Black and Puerto Rican/Latin@ Unity


On a cold evening in Brooklyn, New York, over 300 people gathered inside Trinity Lutheran Church for a special Black History month event dedicated to Oscar Lopez Rivera, the longest held political prisoner in Puerto Rican history. The historic event, convened by a group of local leaders, featured an inspiring dialogue between Reverend Samuel Cruz, Senior Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Jose Lopez, Executive Director of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center and brother of Oscar, and Dr. Cornel West, one of the most important public intel- lectuals in U.S. society and expert on the Black religious and political tradition. In the audience were several special guests, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, newly minted New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Carlos Menchaca.

Building on a public conversation between Reverend Cruz and Dr. West held in Puerto Rico last year, the evening was filled with lessons about the meaning of solidarity, the importance of hope in political struggle, and, above all, the centrality of love and commitment to the cause of freedom. At the center of these lessons was Oscar, an incarcerated patriot of the Puerto Rican people that commands the love, respect, and support of a countless number of people around the world.

Rev. Cruz commenced the dialogue making clear the purpose of the conversation: the immediate freedom of Oscar. Receiving a standing ovation, Dr. West began by invok- ing the legendary Black sociologist and political figure, W.E.B. Du Bois, and posing questions about how the oppressed could confront oppressors without compromising their humanity, love, and ethics. Distinguishing those that raised their “voice” against injustice with those that merely “echo,” he drew parallels between the Black and Puerto Rican experience. Throughout his commentary, Dr. West paid homage to Puerto Rican national figures the likes of Ramo?n Emeterio Betances, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, and Julia De Burgos, and visionaries of the Black Freedom movement the likes of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Malcolm X. One of the most powerful moments of the evening was when Jose Lopez described how Oscar’s survived and, in a sense, transcended his twelve year long placement in a sensory deprivation control unit at the U.S. Penitentiary Marion.

Oscar, his brother told the audience, transformed his imposed isolation into a choice of solitude, thereby refusing to allow his jailers to break his mind and spirit. Jose E. Lopez also read a moving letter from Oscar to Dr. West. At the conclusion of the event and a barrage of photos and em- braces, Dr. West signed a petition calling on U.S. President Obama to release Oscar. As the New York chapter of the National Boricua Human Rights Network noted on its Facebook page, “He signed, have you? Let’s get thousands to sign!”


Letter from Oscar Lopez to Cornel West 

Dear Dr. West:

I would like to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the solidarity you have shared with our just and noble cause, and especially, for all your endeavors to make this a better and more just world. Our struggle to eradicate colonialism in Puerto Rico and to make our homeland a nation where freedom, justice and participatory democracy prevail is part and parcel of the struggle for a better and more just world. i’m fairly certain we will be victorious.

The neoliberal agenda for the new millennium of the few countries that are in control of the world
has not found fertile grounds in Latin America for its implementation, and the majority of the world community no longer accept wars and regime changes as a solution to the problems it faces.

Our struggle against colonialism and for the independence of our homeland has existed for over two centuries, and neither the Spanish imperialist regime or the u.s. government have been able to defeat it. Because the courageous women and men who initiated it did so as an act of love and compassion. And every generation that has given it continuity have done with the same courage, love and compassion.

For those of us who have struggled against u.s. colonialism race matters. The Spanish and the u.s. government have used racism to keep us under their colonial chains, and to divide us. Even before the u.s. government invaded and occupied Puerto Rico militarily it had labeled our people as a mongrel race. And that racism still prevails. But the father of our homeland, Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances, exhorted our people always to be proud of our dark skin, and to this day we continue to affirm and celebrate our African roots.

As we celebrate Black History Month we do it knowing we have a long struggle ahead of us. But we know a better and more just world is possible as long as we dare to struggle for it. And some day we will celebrate who we are as a people and as a one race – the universal human race. A big hug with short Puerto Rican arms and with a heart full of love for you and your loved ones. EN RESISTENCIA Y LUCHA,  OLR.

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Fallece el Patriota Dr Luis Nieves Falcón

Posted on 27 July 2014 by alejandro

Comunidad Boricua en Chicago dice: ¡Gracias por tu ejemplo!

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San Juan- En la madrugada del lunes 10 de marzo, a las 2:20 de la madrugada, falleció el incansable luchador de la justicia, la libertad y los derechos humanos el Dr. Luis Nieves Falcón. El martes 11 de marzo, a las 10:00 de la mañana, en la Funeraria Alvarez en Bayamón, se llevó a cabo un acto de reconocimiento al destacado sociólogo y abogado. Su cuerpo descansará a partir del miércoles en el Cementerio los Cipreses en Bayamón. La comunidad Boricua de Chicago se unió al luto de el inolvidable patriota con quien compartio muchas luchas y hazañas. A continuación publicamos los mensajes de el Congresista Luis V. Gutiérrez y el director Ejexcutivo del Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño José E. López.


Mensaje de José E. López 

Es con mucho pesar que doy mis más sentidas condolencias, y las de mi familia, como también, es de la Red Nacional Boricua Pro-Derechos Humanos y el Centro Cultural Puertorriqueño Juan Antonio Corretjer, por la pérdida física de una de las figuras intelectuales más valiosas de Puerto Rico, el Dr. Nieves Falcón. Nieves Falcón no fue solo maestro de maestros, psicólogo de psicólogos, abogados de abogados, sociólogo de sociólogos; fue, sin duda, un intelectual orgánico. Nieves Falcón comprometió su vida a la lucha por la independencia de Puerto Rico; especialmente, a la defensa de las víctimas de persecución en la jornada por hacer de Puerto Rico una patria libre. Dedicó las pasados 35 años a liberar a los prisioneros políticos puertorriqueños. Planificó la campaña que excarceló a más de una docena de ellos en el 1999 y continuó esta jornada, hasta con su último suspiro, para ver a mi querido hermano, Oscar López Rivera, libre en nuestra Patria. En todo lugar que Nieves Falcón vivió, dejó una marca indeleble. Era una trotamundos, visitó casi todos los continentes. En cada uno, dejó parte de sí mismo. Invirtió gran parte de su tiempo y esfuerzos al fortalecimiento de la diáspora puertorriqueña. En Filadelfia, en 1991, ayudó a articular la visión que fue lo que, a la larga, liberó a los prisioneros políticos puertorriqueños a través de Ofensiva ‘92. En Nueva York, fue pionero en las tantas luchas que mejoraron la calidad de vida de los puertorriqueños, fuese en el Bronx o El Barrio u organizando tribunales sobre la violación de los derechos humanos y los presos políticos. En Chicago, vivió con nosotros en la comunidad, moldeando y creando algunas de las ideas más innovadoras sobre currículos y prácticas educativas que hicieron a la Escuela Superior Clemente un modelo a imitar en la década de los noventa. Con mucho cariño, recordamos su última visita a  Chicago en abril de 2013, donde dio tres grandes discursos e incluso cantó, con su melódica voz, una canción por la libertad de Oscar. Nieves Falcón, siempre serás nuestro Quijote, batallando contra los molinos de viento de la opresión, y nuestro cimarrón, construyendo una comunidad de resistencia, esperanza y cambio.

Mensaje de Luis V. Gutiérrez

Quiero expresar mi más profunda gratitud a nuestro patriota, el Dr. Luis Nieves Falcón, en estos momentos  cuando entra en su nueva jornada de lo temporal a lo infinito. Y, al mismo tiempo, me uno en luto con mi patria en la pérdida física de ese total boricua. Cuando pienso en Nieves Falcón, veo el rostro de cada uno de los presos políticos excarcelados. Fue su inagotable energía, su poderoso empuje, su compromiso sin limitaciones, su visión magistral que nos guío para hacer posible la victoria que obtuvimos en el 1999 con la liberación de nuestros patriotas encarcelados. Nieves Falcón no era solamente un letrado con un verbo encendido, sino un hombre para  todos los tiempos. De Nieves Falcón aprendí mucho sobre nuestra patria; de él aprendí a amarla más. Mi querido Nieves Falcón, nosotros en Chicago jamás te olvidaremos, serás siempre nuestro “Snow Falcon”, el que cuida sobre nosotros. Hasta siempre compañero de lucha.

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En la Cárcel con Oscar.

Posted on 17 July 2014 by alejandro

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By José Enrique Ayoroa Santaliz

Oscar López Rivera y sus amigos patriotas boricuas de Chicago que fueron sus compañeros de prisión se fijaron un objetivo para el tiempo que permanecieran encarcelados. No solo resistir con dignidad, sino, hacer de su encarcelamiento un continuo ejercicio de mejoramiento personal en todos los órdenes. Por los frutos en ellos, es obvio que lo consiguieron, lo lograron con su perseverancia y sabiduría.

El pasado sábado 12 de abril, mi hermano César Hernández Colón y este servidor, compartimos con Oscar cuatro horas inolvidables, en la cárcel de Terre Haute, en Indiana.

Para acudir al encuentro con Oscar, nos levantamos a las dos de la madrugada en Chicago, y comenzamos el viaje en automovil hacia la cárcel de Terre Haute. El recorrido es de cuatro horas y media de duración, íbamos medio dormidos, dando cabezazos a lado y lado, implorando por un café al estilo boricua, y no al estilo “americano”, que suele ser aguado.

Luego nos condujeron a la inmensa sala de visitas de los familiares. Una vez adentro, de inmediato nos impactó el perfil de los reclusos y sus familiares. En todo aquel paraninfo solo había, como visitantes, una aparente familia (esposa, esposo e hija adulta ) caucásicos.   Mas adelante, Oscar nos confirmó lo que era evidente, la joven mujer blanca visitaba al que obviamente era su esposo o compañero sentimental, que era mejicano, acompañada por su mamá y su papá. De ahí a fuera, no había en la inmensa sala ninguna otra persona blanca, que no fueran los guardias.

“La vida tiene razones que la razón no entiende.” Mientras esperabamos la llegada de Oscar, en un pequeñísimo espacio que tienen destinado para los encuentros de abogado- cliente, estuve pensando en el boxeador estadounidense Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Me gustaba citar los casos de “Hurricane” Carter, como muestra de lo que puede provocar en un juez o en un panel de jurado cualquiera de los prejuicios humanos.

En ese pensamiento me hallaba imbuído cuando llegó la luz de su sonrisa, que iluminó el incómodo cajón de abogados y clientes en el que nos retorcíamos de incomodidad mi hermano César y este servidor. Era la presencia carismática de Oscar. Al primer cruce de miradas, nos pareció a los tres que nos conocíamos de toda la vida.

Oscar es un hombre culto, con más de cien créditos universitarios, y un buen lector de literatura diversificada. Es un hombre accesible, afable, campechano, con gran sentido del humor y envidiable gusto de vivir. Nos hizo sentir tan cómodos, que creo que me excedí en bromas y expresiones inapropiadas ante un ser humano, que, teóricamente, todavía tiene una sentencia hasta el año 2026.

En un momento dado en qué César le estaba relatando el acto que se lleva a cabo anualmente en Ponce, en la madrugada del 12 de diciembre, en honor a la patrona de la ciudad, la Virgen de La Guadalupe, con mariachis y cantos mejicanos de alabanzas, en un rapto de positivismo que no me es característico, lo invité para que esté con nosotros en Ponce, el próximo año. La fuerza que me insufló su bondadoso estoicismo me llevó a tanto.

En un momento dado, con lágrimas en sus ojos, César le dijo : “Usted es el hombre más libre que yo he conocido, libre de miedos, libre de rencores, libre de odios…”, con lo que le hizo una radiografía a su alma. Ese es Oscar López Rivera.

Todo lo relatado hace obvia esta pregunta ¿por qué tiene que continuar preso un ser humano de estas características? Contésteme usted, amable lector.

 

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