The American Studies Association, a progressive educational organization, met last weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Panels included the participation of former Puerto Rican political prisoners Rafael Cancel Miranda, Elizam Escobar, Lucy Rodriguez, and Luis Rosa. Following is a statement written to the conference by Oscar Lopez Rivera:
For the American Studies Association conference
October 29, 2012
The U.S. government categorically denies it has political prisoners in its gulags. It does it primarily to cover up the nefarious, barbaric and even criminal acts and practices it carries out against us and other regular prisoners, and to do it with impunity. It uses the denial as its license to violate our most basic human rights by subjecting us to isolation and sensory deprivation regimens that are nothing less than cruel and unusual punishment. It uses it to hoodwink its own citizens to believe that it doesn’t criminalize dissenters or opponents of its wars and other imperialistic practices. It does it to perpetuate the lie that it’s the ultimate defender of freedom, justice, democracy and human rights in the world. And it uses it at times to further criminalize the political prisoners and/or our families and to disconnect us from our families, communities, supporters and the just and noble causes we served and try to continue serving.
During the many years I’ve been in the gulags, I’ve met and shared ideas, time and space with different political prisoners who struggle for just and noble causes like the one I’ve chosen to serve. Some were with me at USP Leavenworth, where we were labeled “notorious and incorrigible criminals” and targeted by the FBI, jailers and informants/provocateurs in their attempts to criminalize us further. In my case the same evil forces even used my medical condition as fodder for the escape conspiracy plot they hatched that added fifteen more years to my sentence.
There were political prisoners with me at USP Marion, where we were subjected to isolation and sensory deprivation regimens, and labeled “predators, the worst of the worst,” and even “animals” by Dr. Urban, the head of the psychology department of USP Marion. Amnesty International went as far as defining the barbaric conditions in that gulag as a “legal crime.” Sensory deprivation and isolation regimens cause a plethora of mental illness/problems, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) — the same mental disorder war veterans suffer.
And there were political prisoners with me in the gulag known as ADX Florence. There some of us were subjected to a sleep deprivation regimen that was pure and simple torture. I experienced it for 58 days and my sleeping patterns were so badly damaged that I still have serious problems sleeping. In these two gulags political prisoners were also the targets of constant harassment such as cell searches, confiscation of reading and art materials and placement in hot cells where there was contraband in order to issue us infractions, send us to the hole, and force us to start the “step-down” program all over again.
Since I have been in the gulags all of my communication has been intercepted and monitored, including my legal mail. My family has been persecuted and criminalized. Three days after I was sentenced my brother José was fired from his job at Northeastern Illinois University, and before that sent to prison for 11 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury. My mother, at age 70, was made my co-conspirator. Anyone who knew my mother knows she would rather have died than to engage in any criminal activity. The FBI has even tried to destroy good community programs that at one point in time I was associated with. The last 14 years I have spent in this gulag, Terre Haute. And the harassment has not stopped. Several times my art materials have been confiscated or lost, art work destroyed, family visits stopped, and I still have to report to the jailers every two hours. In those 14 years, in spite of all the provocations and harassment, the jailers haven’t been able to accuse me of committing any infractions. But that doesn’t stop them from doing what they’ve been doing to me for the past 31 years. And I’m fairly certain the other political prisoners continue experiencing the same treatment and conditions.
It could be argued that government’s denial of our existence has worked. But our wills and spirits are strong enough to continue resisting and struggling.
En resistencia y lucha [in resistance and struggle],
Oscar López Rivera