Three facts. First, the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN) was a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group that was dedicated to Puerto Rican independence and that, between 1974 and 1983, killed several people in over a hundred bomb attacks within the United States. The most famous of these actions was a 1975 bombing that took four lives at the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City.
Second, Oscar López Rivera was an FALN leader who was arrested in 1980, sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 1981, and released on May 17 as the result of a commutation order issued by Barack Obama three days before the end of his presidency. President Clinton had offered to release him as far back as 1999 on the condition that he renounce violence – but López Rivera refused. Obama placed no such condition on him.
Third, the organizers of New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade announced in early May that the parade, set to take place on June 11, would honor López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero.”
Joseph Connor, the son of one of the four people killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing, Frank Connor, responded to the news with a furious op-ed in the New York Post. “The idea is truly sickening,” he wrote. Reminding readers that New York City had been the setting for the “most horrific” of all of FALN’s bombings, he asked: “Why would anyone in New York salute this man — particularly in the midst of our nation’s war on terrorists?”
Even more appalling, the announcement of this twisted tribute to López Rivera had been made by a public official, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, at “the very site of the most horrific terror attack in our nation’s history,” namely the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers. Coincidentally, Frank Connor’s godson, Steve Schlag, was one of the over 3000 victims of that assault. And that wasn’t the only grim coincidence: the Twin Towers, Joseph Connor noted, was the location of a 1977 threat by FALN that “prompted an evacuation” of both towers.
So it is, wrote Joseph Connor, that “the city in which our father was born, raised, worked and was murdered — a city bloodied by the most savage of all terrorist attacks on 9/11 — will play host to honoring” a terrorist with the blood of New Yorkers on his hands.
As Connor pointed out, López Rivera’s terrorism never had the slightest thing to do with freedom. Puerto Ricans have frequently had the opportunity to vote on the status of their island – independence, statehood, or a continuation of its unique commonwealth status? “Never more than 5 percent of them have ever voted for independence from America,” wrote Connor, “and in 2012 fully 60 percent voted for statehood.”
No, what López Rivera was fighting for was not freedom but “subjugation in a Cuba-like state.” After all, another notorious FALN member, William Morales, “has been a guest of Cuba for over 30 years.” New Yorkers, maintained Connor, “should be fuming. The NYPD and FDNY should refuse to participate.”
As of this writing, there’s no news about the NYPD or FDNY pulling out of the parade. But on May 16, it was reported that Goya Foods, America’s “oldest and best-known Hispanic food company,” had withdrawn support from the parade because of the tribute to López Rivera. But Univision, Telemundo, SBS, JetBlue, Coca-Cola, AT&T, McDonald’s, and the New York Yankees all stayed on as sponsors.
As the date of the parade approaches, we’ll keep an eye on developments.