The Latest: Venezuela's leader praises Puerto Rico militant

The latest on the release of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera (all times local):

4:40 p.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has spoken on the phone with newly freed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera.

The embattled socialist president praised Lopez as a "very humble man with courage and resolve" and thanked him for the strength he provides in a time of "internal aggression, external aggression and media lynching."

Lopez told Maduro that the South American nation's people will be the ones who determine their nation's destiny, "not the United States, not any other power."

The conversation was broadcast by Venezuelan state television and Telesur.

In prepared comments earlier in the day, Lopez thanked the governments and citizens of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. He also thanked U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for commuting the sentences of Puerto Rican "political prisoners."


3 p.m.

Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera tells the Associated Press that he has "no regrets" about his involvement with a group that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in New York, Chicago, Washington and Puerto Rico during the 1970s and early 1980s.

But he said any talk of violence has long been "discarded completely" by Puerto Rico's independence movement.

"Whatever we did, whatever was done, whatever the struggle called for in the 1970s is not there today. We have evolved, the conditions in Puerto Rico have changed," he said.

He also said he believed an upcoming referendum on Puerto Rico's status will be an "exercise in futility."

"We have had plenty of exercises yet the status of Puerto Rico has not changed," he said.

11:15 a.m.

Newly freed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera says independence militants didn't hate Americans but sought justice and full sovereignty for Puerto Rico.

He's expressing gratitude to the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua — as well as U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for commuting the sentences of Puerto Rican "political prisoners" over the years.

Lopez held a news conference Wednesday hours after being released from house arrest after decades in custody.

He vowed to travel the island to "share ideas and promote unity." But he also blasted local elites he says have "helped Washington and Wall Street" run the island for over a century.


8:15 a.m.

Puerto Rico nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera has been freed from house arrest after decades in custody. It's a case that transformed him into a martyr with supporters but outraged those who lost loved ones in a string of deadly bombings.

The 74-year-old grinned broadly and waved to supporters through a fence at his daughter's San Juan home before getting into a white jeep. He's scheduled to stop at a federal building to return electronic tags that monitored his movements during his home confinement.

Roughly 50 people congregated in the streets outside the apartment building in San Juan's Santurce district holding flowers and Puerto Rican flags. Some chanted: "Free at last!" And a group of singers from University of Puerto Rico's choir harmonized as Lopez drove past.

A street celebration was expected to draw thousands of supporters later in the day.