This past Thursday December 5, Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s greatest fighters for freedom, passed away after a life of struggle a the age of 95. Politicians from Raul Castro to Ted Cruz were quick to release statements offering their condolence and talking about how Mandela inspired them. President Barack Obama was no different saying that “his journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better” and he could not imagine his life without Mandela’s example. Yet today the United States continue to hold political prisoners, one of those prisoners is Oscar López Rivera. Oscar López Rivera is a Puerto Rican nationalist who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in 1981 for the crime of wanting to see a Puerto Rico free from United States colonialism. 32 years later he still remains imprisoned in Terre Haute, Indiana and has become one of the world’s longest serving political prisoners, serving 5 more years than Mandela did under apartheid. The UN has even called for his released, but he still remains unknown to many Americans. In fact when tens of thousands of people in Puerto Rico and the diaspora filled the streets demanding his release two weeks ago, the English language media remained silent. Despite the media blackout in the US, the movement for his release has gained the support of the vast majority of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the diaspora with Representatives Luis Gutierrez and José Serrano as well as singer Ricky Martin calling for his release. So why does Obama continue to remain silent? If Obama really wants to honor Mandela’s legacy he needs to free Oscar López Rivera along with all other political prisoners. As Mandela said “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity" and Oscar López Rivera deserves the right to be free.

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