On Friday afternoon, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez and State Senator Darren Soto held a press conference near downtown Orlando to call on their fellow Puerto Ricans to turnout for next month’s elections and also advocate for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera who they believe has been wrongfully incarcerated for political reasons.
Lopez-Rivera, a former member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Organization, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, was convicted of being a part of a conspiracy to move against the United States but never tied to any violent crimes, has been in jail for the last 35 years.
“We all know that these were destructive acts but they had a greater significance.” said Soto “And that’s if you face tyranny, you face it with a strong fist and a strong voice. 35 years later we stand as a bi-partisan coalition to acknowledge that Oscar Lopez-Rivera is a political prisoner and one that needs to be set free.”
Many believe President Barack Obama will pardon the 73 year old Lopez-Rivera before exiting the White House after this year’s elections.
Guitierrez then took to the podium and surrounded by activists and supporters, called on the fastest growing group of voters in the “Heart of the I-4 corridor” to have their voices heard and do their party to preserve their culture’s future on November 8th.
“The fact is that the power and influence of the Puerto Rican community, it’s not in Harlem, it’s not in Chicago, it’s here in Florida. This is where our community is growing.” he said “You know better than anybody that every vote counts. We have 6,000 Puerto Ricans leaving the island every month and most of them are coming here. We need to make sure they’re registered and determine who the next President of the United States is.”
And it could be Puerto Ricans that cast the deciding votes in the race for the White House, Soto himself will be on the ballot in his bid for Congress in the 9th District. Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump in the polls here in Florida and in several other important states.