[UPDATE BELOW] Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. affirmed his commitment on Friday to marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade despite mounting boycotts over its honoring Puerto Rican nationalist militant Oscar López Rivera. Diaz said the uproar over López Rivera being named the parade's first National Freedom Hero "accomplishes nothing" and called the boycott from big-name sponsors "incredibly disheartening."
"The National Puerto Rican Day Parade has never been about one person, but the more than five million Puerto Ricans who call the mainland United States their home," said Diaz, whose parents came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico in 1965. "To suggest otherwise is to reduce our traditions and pride into the background noise of a novela."
López Rivera was the leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known as FALN. The group was implicated in more than 100 bombings, including the Fraunces Tavern bombing that killed four people in 1975, as well as a New Year's Eve bombing of NYPD headquarters that injured three officers in 1983. The group also bombed all three New York area airports.
López Rivera was convicted in 1981 of transporting explosives and weapons with the intent to kill and destroy government property and sentenced to 70 years, but the feds were never able to pin a specific bombing on him. Obama commuted his sentence in January just before leaving office, and he was released from prison earlier this month. He had previously rejected a commutation offer by Bill Clinton that included the requirement that he renounce violence. He was the last convicted FALN member to be released.
The decision to honor López Rivera has prompted a wave of corporate sponsors to pull their support from the parade, including Goya Foods, JetBlue, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Corona, the Yankees and, most recently, Univision. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Hispanic societies of the FDNY and NYPD, and Police Commissioner James O'Neill have also said that they will not participate.
Earlier this week, Councilman Jumaane Williams appeared on Fox New's Tucker Carlson Tonight to share his support for the parade's stance. Williams pointed out that the NYPD did not boycott the St. Patrick's Day Parade of 1983, which honored Irish Republican Army supporter Michael Flannery. "The United States has supported people who have done violent acts in the course of getting their freedom across the world, so we should at least be consistent," Williams said.
On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio also reiterated his support for the parade during a press conference with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is Puerto Rican and a longtime advocate for López Rivera. De Blasio has said in his defenses of López Rivera that he has renounced violence, but that is not true.
"Let me say this: We are a colonized people, and according to international law, that says all colonized people have a right to struggle for its independence using all methods within reach, including force," López Rivera told the Times last week. “That is a right."
Rivera denies having been involved in killing anyone.
Also on Tuesday, the parade's organizers released a statement saying that they were saddened and disappointed that so many sponsors were pulling out of the parade, adding, "we respect their decision to do so."
"Equally, we respect our Parade's mission and commitment to inclusiveness, and the responsibility of representing the broadest possible blend voices that make up the Puerto Rican community," the statement continued.
The Puerto Rican Day Parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 11th at 11 a.m.
UPDATE: Governor Cuomo is the latest to announce that he won’t be marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade. On Friday afternoon, his spokesperson told the Post: "The Governor’s support and long term affection for the Puerto Rican community remains unwavering, unfortunately he will not be marching in this year’s parade."