Dear President Barrack Obama
My open letter seeks to bring to your attention the important political question of the struggles for the independence of the people of Puerto Rico and the release from prison of the hero of the nation Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera.
The Island of Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the history of the western hemisphere and Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera the oldest serving political prisoner in the history of our modern times.
The people of Puerto Rico has a long history of rich struggles against imperialism and colonial oppression and exploitation. They are a society with an unbroken record of a long journey of heroic struggles for freedom and equality.
Since the arrival of the European voyager Christopher Columbus in 1493, they have been subjugated to a perpetual direct foreign domination by the Spanish and US colonialism. For a period of four hundred years they have been superimposed by the Spanish colonial domination.
After the defeat of Spain during the Spanish-American war of 1898, the USA almost took possession of some of the Spanish colonies which amongst others included Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines. Since then Puerto Rico has been a colonial possession of the US empire for the past hundred years.
I wish you agree with me that Puerto Rico is amongst the few remaining modern colonial states during this present day era of the world of imperialism. For over five centuries they have been subjected to the highest forms of oppression and exploitation.
In 1948 the US sponsored Senate of Puerto Rico passed law 53, the “Gag Law”, which prohibited the citizens of Puerto Rico from raising their own national flag. The notorious law prohibited the people of the Island from participating in any form of struggles for the independence of their country against colonial occupation and domination.
Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera, the hero of the Puerto Rican nation, has been condemned to incarceration for leading the struggles for the freedom and dignity of his people. He is serving the harshest sentence of over seventy years for leading the struggles of his people against the US led imperialism and colonial domination.
I have elected to borrow the words of wisdom you expressed during the memorial service of our international struggle icon and the father of the South African nation, President Nelson Mandela when you said”
But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.
For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.
We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.
There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard”.
Your profound and remarkable words confirm that you appreciate the immense achievements of our struggles over the centuries of human civilization. Our material world has become a panorama of historical events.
I therefore hope we share the same thoughts with regard to the impending realities of the complex world our generation finds itself in today. I hope we share the same thoughts that centuries of struggles have also inspired humanity to create its own future.
One of the paramount achievements of these struggles was to walk human society through the age of imperialism and colonialism. These are indomitable achievements which will forever inspire the generations of man to come.
The future to come will always derive itself from our common determination to realise this milestone achievement. Ours remains to be an endurable commitment to create a better world for all.
We need to be true custodians of this journey of hope. Our courage is our hope.
Our responsibility is to build a new world social order anchored on the fundamental values of human solidarity and internationalism. The world of peace and human prosperity.
For a period of thirty four years, Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera could not see where the sea breathes. For all these years behind prison walls he could not appreciate the miraculous beauty of the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
Mr President, Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera deserves to see where the sea breathes. He deserves to see the smiling foam of Cabo Rojo, which is made out of light mixed with salt.
In one of the weekly letters he write to his granddaughter Karina, Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera express his inner being in the following profound way”
After my family, what I miss the most is the sea.
It has been 35 years since the last time I saw it. But I have painted it many times, both the Atlantic and the Caribbean, the smiling foam in Cabo Rojo, which is made of light mixed with salt.
For any Puerto Rican, living far from the sea is almost incomprehensible. It’s different when you know you are free to move anywhere and to travel to see it. It doesn’t matter if it is grey and cold. Even if you see the sea in a faraway country, you realize that it always starts again, and that fish that drew close to your land may pass through this sea, bringing memories from over there.
I learned to swim from a very young age, I must have been about three years old. One of my father’s cousins, who lived with us and was like a big brother to me, used to take me to the beach where he swam with his friends, and would throw me into the water so that I would learn. Later, when I was at school, I used to escape with the other children to a nearby river. All this seems far away now.
Here in prison I have often felt nostalgic for the sea; filling my lungs with its smell; touching it and wetting my lips, but right away I realize that many years may have to pass before I can give myself that simple pleasure”.
These are humbled words of a great heroic man with a human heart. A heroic revolutionary leader who has volunteered his own soul for the freedom and dignity of his people.
His are courageous remarkable words unparalleled in history. The words of a son of man whose his destiny is in your own hands.
I join the millions of the people of the world to demand for the freedom and dignity of the people of Puerto Rico. I join the millions of the people of the world to demand for the release of Cde Oscar Lopez Rivera.
The struggle of the people of Puerto Rico is embraced by the growing ferment of human solidarity and internationalism. They are not alone in their struggle for dignity and independence.
The freedom of the people of this beautiful Island is a historic necessity.
Cde Justice Piitso if former Provincial Secretary of the SACP in Limpopo, former Ambassador to Cuba