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What Happened in San Juan?

May 29, 2017

Who do you believe, the Speaker or the NYPD?

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito flew to Puerto Rico earlier this month to welcome home Oscar López Rivera, whose 55-year federal sentence was commuted in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialConsidered a hero by some Puerto Ricans, López Rivera was released from federal prison after 35 years for his role in a separatist or terrorist group (chose your term) that carried out more than 100 bombings nationwide in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1975, López Rivera’s group, known by its Spanish acronym FALN, attacked the Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan and killed four and injured more than 40 people. In 1982, the group attacked Police Plaza, blinding and disfiguring two officers.

The story rattling around Police Plaza last week is that Mark-Viverito told the cops on her detail, who had accompanied her to Puerto Rico, to pick up López Rivera at a relative’s house in San Juan and drive him in Mark-Viverito’s car.

The cops supposedly refused, upsetting the Speaker. Meanwhile, so the story goes, she made a call to New York while the detail alerted their superiors in the NYPD Intelligence Division, who backed their decision.

“Never happened,” said Mark-Viverito. “Somebody’s telling you a story.”

Her spokesperson added that while Mark-Viverito had paid for her own plane ticket “to minimize expense to the city,” she was there in her official capacity, which explained the detail’s presence. The spokesperson did not respond to an email, asking who paid for the car the detail drove.

Whether the cop story is true or apocryphal — [no one in or around Police Plaza would attach his name to it] — it reflects the bad blood generated by the name Oscar López Rivera, who is to be honored next month at the Puerto Rican Day Parade as its “National Freedom Hero.”

Supporting López Rivera has made some city officials look and sound ridiculous. Speaker Mark-Viverito said. “We have to look at the widespread and disproportionate sentence to an individual who was not linked to any act of violence that hurt or killed anyone.”

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittJust for the record: So, because Osama bin Laden was not among the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center he wasn’t responsible for 9/11?

López Rivera was convicted in 1981 of transporting firearms and explosives for the FALN. A New York Times story after his release earlier this month quoted him saying: “All colonized people have a right to struggle for its independence using all methods within reach, including force.”

NYPD Commissioner Jim O’Neill didn’t look so good either. After saying he would march in the parade with Mayor Bill de Blasio, O’Neill bailed after the department’s Hispanic Society of officers, who comprise nearly 30 percent of the force, announced it would boycott the parade. To coin former President Obama’s term, that’s leading from behind.

Meanwhile, government officials and corporate sponsors are bailing out willy-nilly. The latest were Gov. Cuomo and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, as well as the Spanish-language television network Univision.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialAs of last week, de Blasio, a political ally of Mark-Viverito, was still marching. “The parade committee made a choice this year on someone to honor. That does not change the basic nature of the parade,” the mayor said. “Whether you agree with that choice or not, it’s still the Puerto Rican parade. … I will be there to honor the Puerto Rican people.”

Some initially called the mayor’s decision smart politics. It doesn’t look so smart now.

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