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Commentary By Seth Barron

Melissa Mark-Viverito's Parade Hypocrisy

Cities New York City

The Puerto Rican Day Parade plans to honor a controversial figure with a history of violence. Elected officials and corporate sponsors threaten to boycott the parade and demand removal of the divisive figure.

Sound familiar? The current argument about honoring convicted Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero” in the forthcoming National Puerto Rican Day Parade has an echo in the recent past. In 2010, the parade proposed to honor island heartthrob and soap opera star Osvaldo Rios as its “Padrino,” or “Godfather.”

Then it emerged that in 2004 Rios served three months in jail for beating his girlfriend. In response, then-council member, and now speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito led a strident campaign to boycott the parade.

Osvaldo Rios “is not a positive role model for my people, for my community, and for our children,” she said in 2010. “He is supposed to be our international representation, someone to emulate. Having him at the parade, what kind of message does that send? To me, it continues to be appalling.”

Throughout her career in public life, Mark-Viverito has been a tireless advocate for Oscar López Rivera, who was convicted in 1981 of “seditious conspiracy” and various weapons charges in relation to his leadership of the FALN, a separatist group that conducted a deadly campaign of more than 100 bombings in the ’70s and ’80s, including the one on Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan in 1975, killing four people and wounding dozens.

López Rivera offered no defense at his trial on the grounds that he was a combatant in an anticolonial struggle, and therefore a POW. Without minimizing Osvaldo Rios’ offense, we can still ask how it is possible to condemn a person who committed one act of violence, while exalting another who made violence his life’s work.

Is Mark-Viverito simply a dupe of her own bad faith, or an outrageous, hypocritical liar?

Mark-Viverito visited López Rivera in federal prison several times a year throughout her speakership, and even used her brief audience with Pope Francis in 2015 to ask for help in freeing her hero. President Barack Obama commuted López Rivera’s sentence, and he was released last week.

Mark-Viverito is leading his 4-day “NYC Victory Celebration,” including a dinner/dance in his honor, culminating in the parade.

At a rally this week, Mark-Viverito denied flatly that López Rivera had ever committed any violent crimes. When asked about dynamite and other bomb-making equipment found in his apartment upon his arrest, she said “in regard to the specifics of that situation you are talking about, I don’t know everything that was presented in the court proceedings” — and called López Rivera a man of peace.

Mark-Viverito claims an “ultra-rightist” conspiracy of anti independence Puerto Ricans has “threatened” parade sponsors to force them to withdraw their support, though she concedes that she has no evidence to back up these wild allegations.

In 2010, Mark-Viverito said she was “disgusted” at the selection of a “convicted domestic abuser” to lead the Puerto Rican parade. She issued a statement, signed by five other Latina council members, saying, “lives are destroyed and futures are damaged by this horrendous crime. We simply cannot remain silent.”

This week, Mark-Viverito was joined by Rosie Mendez, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Annabel Palma — who protested Rios — and two dozen other council members in praising López Rivera for “representing the voice, tenacity and resolve of Puerto Rico,” and affirming their “full support for the Board’s decision to recognize and uplift the legacy” of López Rivera.

His true “legacy” is best witnessed by his victims: the families of the murdered, and the wounds carried today by the survivors of FALN terror.

In 2010, Rios showed shame and remorse for his past abuse. “These mistakes undeniably belong to my life, and I acknowledge that they will accompany me forever,” he wrote. “I asked for forgiveness publicly, and today I do it again with humbleness and absolute responsibility.”

López Rivera has never even admitted culpability for his crimes, and shrugs off any sense of remorse or concern for his victims or their families. In 2011 he told an interviewer, “If you don’t respect me, why should I reciprocate? I wasn’t there to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, I’m sorry.’ That’s not me.”

Mark-Viverito’s 2010 campaign to boycott the parade was a success: Osvaldo Rios backed out and refused the honor of being its “Padrino.” So history has set a clear precedent.

The NYPD, the Yankees, Coca-Cola, Goya Foods, JetBlue and AT&T have all said that they cannot support a march honoring a convicted terrorist. Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez is also out.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade is disgracing itself by honoring a cowardly, unrepentant murderer. The board of the parade should buck Mark-Viverito’s malignant influence and salvage some self-respect by booting López Rivera from his place of honor.

This piece originally appeared on the New York Post


Seth Barron is associate edtior of City Journal and project director of the Manhattan Institute’s NYC Initiative.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post