Oscar Lopez Rivera steps away from Puerto Rican Day Parade

Posted: Updated:
NEW YORK -

After an ongoing controversy cost the Puerto Rican Day Parade some big-name sponsors and supporters, the man in the middle of the dispute has stepped away from it all.

When organizers sought to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera at this year's parade, sponsors like Coca-Cola, Goya Foods, Univision, the FDNY and even the Yankees pulled their support.

That's because Lopez Rivera, a radical Puerto Rican nationalist, has been linked to more than 100 bombings in the 1970s and 1980s. He served 35 years in U.S. federal prison before former President Barack Obama commuted his sentence earlier this year.

The leader addressed the controversy in a Daily News op-ed where he said he wanted to change the narrative.

"Let's be puertorriqueños and puertorriqueñas," he wrote. "The honor should not be for me; it should be bestowed on our pioneers who came to the United States and opened doors."

A spokesperson for the parade said they respected Lopez Rivera's decision.

Thursday, he announced that he would step aside from any formal role in the parade.

"We are looking forward to marching with Oscar López Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue, 'not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather,'" a parade spokesperson said in a statement. "Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico."

Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked Lopez Rivera for his decision, calling it a "critical step forward" in returning the focus on Puerto Rico, rather than the controversy.

"The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant," the mayor said. "It is a celebration of a culture and community at the center of what makes New York City great."

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