“I feel at home,” said Oscar Lopez Rivera upon his arrival in Cuba. The Puerto Rican independence leader, who was invited to the socialist country by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples will remain in the country until Nov. 26.
Upon his arrival at Jose Marti International Airport, Lopez Rivera was greeted and hugged by Fernando Gonzalez Llort, one of the Cuban 5, who for over four years shared a prison cell with Lopez Rivera in the United States. Gonzalez Llort, now ICAP's president, was one of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States, charged with espionage for monitoring anti-Cuban groups based in Miami to prevent terrorist actions against the Cuban people.
During his first encounter with the press, Lopez expressed gratitude and “much love to the Cuban people.” He added that the people of Puerto Rico “will be with Cuba to the end.”
Having spent nearly 36 years in the U.S. prison system for his activities aimed at securing the independence of Puerto Rico and commenting on the island's US$73 billion debt crisis, Lopez Rivera said “Not a single Puerto Rican controls Puerto Rico. Those who control Puerto Rico are Washington and Wall Street.”
He went on to tell Prensa Latina that he was “alive and kicking” when asked about his health. “I think that at my age (74 years) I can work 14 or 15 hours a day and it is good to know that one can still ... work.”
Lopez Rivera's itinerary includes an ICAP ceremony to bestow him with the Order of Solidarity; a tribute to Cuba's national hero, Jose Marti; and the one-year commemoration ceremonies for the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro in Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.
He'll also visit the Ernesto Che Guevara Memorial Complex in Santa Clara where he'll honor Lola Rodriguez de Tio, the Puerto Rican poet, journalist and revolutionary who wrote the famous poetic line, “Cuba and Puerto Rico are the two wings of the same bird.” It has also been suggested that Rodriguez de Tio helped design the Puerto Rican flag, which is a replica of the Cuban flag but with the colors reversed.