New York

Oscar López Rivera to march in NYC Puerto Rican Day parade, though not as honoree

Recently freed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera still will march in New York City's Puerto Rican Day parade despite stepping down as a parade honoree, organizers said Friday.

The parade's board of directors said in a statement that López Rivera will march June 11 "not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather." 

"Unfortunately, the narrative around the parade is not celebration and concern for the situation on the island, but rather misinformation about who I am and what I stand for," López Rivera wrote in an Op-Ed piece published in the New York Daily News on Thursday.

López Rivera, who was considered to be a top leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña), or FALN, was set to be honored by parade organizers as "Prócer de la Libertad" — National Freedom Hero. The ultranationalist Puerto Rican group had claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in New York, Chicago and Puerto Rico in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier that  López Rivera will be stepping aside from any formal role in the parade, adding that it "is a critical step forward in refocusing our city's attention on the more important issues facing Puerto Rico." 

The parade's decision to honor  López Rivera prompted sponsors including Coca-Cola, JetBlue and AT&T to drop out of the June 11 march up Fifth Avenue. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said he wouldn't be marching.

Hispanic societies in both the Fire Department of New York and the New York Police Department also said they would not be sending delegations this year, and the police commissioner said he wouldn't march. Law enforcement officers were among those injured in the FALN blasts. Though parade organizers have said they stand by their decision to honor  López Rivera. 

 López Rivera  had not been charged with carrying out any of the bombings, but he was convicted of charges, including seditious conspiracy and served more than 35 years in prison before former  President Barack Obama commuted his sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.