By: Laura V. Mor / Source Resumen Latinoamericano Cuba Office / November 16, 2017
The Puerto Rican patriot for independence Oscar López Rivera received during his visit to Cuba the highest decoration granted by the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL, the Spanish acronym): the Order of Solidarity El Mehdi Ben Barka, for the “sustained life trajectory and pro-independence conviction of a simple man and unyielding patriot who, after more than three decades of unjust imprisonment, remains undefeated, challenging with the immovable firmness of his ideals the shameful colonial power that is exerted on his beloved island Puerto Rico by the greatest power of the planet”
The ceremony, held in the presence of the Commander of the Rebel Army José Ramón Balaguer, was also attended by diplomatic and political representatives from 42 countries, 38 of whom were ambassadors and/or chargés d’affairs.
In 1986, when the Organization decorated Nelson Mandela with the first Order, Oscar López was serving his fifth year in prison for fighting for the independence of his country, a free associated state to a hegemonic imperialist power.
The Order was established in 1986 to be granted to relevant Third World personalities who have won the admiration of the peoples from the three continents for their struggle and outstanding contributions in favor of anti-imperialist solidarity in the battle for freedom, full decolonization, national independence, peace, economic development and social justice. Twenty-seven personalities who have been relevant in such struggles have been decorated with this Order of Solidarity.
Oscar López Rivera became the political prisoner from Latin America and the Caribbean with the longest stay in prison. He was arbitrarily deprived of his freedom for 35 years and 8 months, “without ever making any concession to the ideals that nourished his struggle nor having ever yielded”, according to the words of Lourdes Cervantes Vázquez, Secretary General of OSPAAAL, who stated that “Oscar’s heroic resistance raises him to the condition of symbol of the anti-imperialist struggle and is a tremendous contribution that strengthens our common struggle in favor of unity, solidarity and internationalism” – sufficient reasons to be worthy of this Order.
René González Sehwerert, Hero of the Republic of Cuba and Vice President of the José Martí Cultural Society –proud of the huge battle waged by Oscar and seeing in him an inspiration for the peoples– delivered the medal to him in the presence of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo and Fernando González Llort, “three of Fidel’s most authentic sons”, as they were defined by Lourdes.
“When the United States empire entered Puerto Rico, the first thing it did was try to exterminate all that represented the love for the Fatherland, the desire for independence and the love for our Fatherland”, denounced Oscar, confirming that “the right of a people to be free has to be respected” and has been violated by the United States since 1898.
“A better and more just world, a world free from empires, a world free from wars, a world where justice and love coexist, where there is a better quality of life, where brotherhood and harmony may coexist” was Oscar’s wish when receiving his honor, like that motor that nourished his days in prison and keeps giving him strength to resist at the height of his seventy-four years, “because the struggle never ends”.
Mandela had to wait until the end of Apartheid to have the Ben Barka Order in his hands. Oscar also had to wait to be free. Five years after it had been awarded to him and received in his absence by his daughter Clarisa, he finally wore it on his chest, as a symbol of the still continuing emancipation struggle, the dream of having a free and sovereign Fatherland.