Council Speaker Mark-Viverito eulogized yesterday a convicted terrorist and sponsor of political violence against the United States, calling her “our icon and national patriot.”
Isabel Rosado Morales died in Puerto Rico Tuesday at the age of 107. Morales was imprisoned three times for seditious acts, the final time in 1954, following a little-remembered gun attack on the floor of the House of Representatives, when four Puerto Rican nationalists, firing from the gallery, shot and wounded five US Congressmen.
Morales was apprehended the next day in San Juan, following a two-hour gun battle in which she took vigorous part, at the home of Pedro Albizu Campos, the “Maestro” of the Puerto Rican independence movement. Her indictment linked Morales to the assassination attempt; she was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, who likely knew Morales from their mutual involvement in the 2000 Navy-Vieques protests, tweeted yesterday from her personal account, “Nuestro ícono y patriota nacional”; “Our icon and national patriot.”
It is curious that the Speaker called Isabel Morales, who even at the age of 105 spoke affirmatively about the use of militant tactics, including gun violence, to achieve liberation, “our” national patriot. Who exactly is the “we” in this construction? Puerto Ricans have had US citizenship since 1917, and the independentistas have received no more than 5% of the vote in any of the four referenda Puerto Rico has held since 1967 regarding the status of the territory.
Certainly it is normal for Melissa Mark-Viverito to see herself as culturally bi-national, as do many mainland Puerto Ricans. But in the context of eulogizing a militant separatist, it is very odd for an elected official in the United States to identify herself politically with a “national patriot” who fomented revolution and categorically rejected association with the United States.
It almost sounds as though the Speaker of the New York City Council isn’t sure which country she wants to be part of.
The question of Mark-Viverito’s loyalties has come up before, as has her support for convicted Puerto Rican terrorists. For most of her first two terms the councilmember stood for, but did not recite, the Pledge of Allegiance, and when asked about it, a staffer said that she was “unfamiliar” with the tradition and its 31 words.
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz disputed this claim, and says that Mark-Viverito told her specifically that she was opposed to saying the Pledge on ideological grounds. "She wanted Puerto Rico to be independent," Koslowitz said. "She was looking for Puerto Rico to take its independence."
Mark-Viverito has long carried a torch for another convicted Puerto Rican terrorist, Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is serving a 70 year sentence for seditious conspiracy. As one of the leaders of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional/Armed Forces for National Liberation), Rivera is suspected of participation in the bombing of Fraunces Tavern, which killed four people, among other violent acts.
In 1999 Rivera was offered executive clemency, along with 15 of his FALN colleagues, by President Clinton in preparation for Hillary Clinton’s US Senate run, but he refused the offer because it was conditioned on renouncing the use of terror. Speaker Mark-Viverito has since agitated for Rivera’s release, having circulated a letter in support of his parole in 2010, and speaking up for him again in 2014.
It is unsettling to think that less than a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Melissa Mark-Viverito would be so tone deaf as to openly lionize and mourn the passing of a woman who was convicted of violent sedition, and who affirmatively praised the use of violence to achieve political ends for sixty years after her involvement in an assassination attempt in the US Capitol.