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Oscar Lopez Rivera won’t be honored at Puerto Rican Day parade

New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade was

New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade was embroiled in controversy over organizers' pick to lead the festivities, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, center, seen here on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Charles Rex Arbogast

A long-imprisoned militant whose group was linked to deadly bombings of civilians decades ago won’t be honored as planned at this year’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, event organizers said Thursday.

The controversy over the planned feting of Oscar López Rivera — who was freed last month after 35 years in prison — at the June 11 parade had led to sponsors to withdraw and dignitaries to refuse to march.

López Rivera was the leader of the group FALN, a separatist group that sought Puerto Rico’s independence by carrying out bombings against civilians in New York City and elsewhere in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He has denied any involvement in the bombings.

In a statement issued Thursday, the parade’s board of directors said that López Rivera would march, not as “national freedom hero” — the designation to be bestowed on him — “but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.”

“We are looking forward to marching with Oscar López Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue,” the statement said, adding: “Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico.”

Plans to honor him had become increasingly controversial in recent weeks, as sponsors such as JetBlue and Goya foods pulled out, as did Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would march. On Thursday, his office said: “Oscar Lopez Rivera agreeing to step aside from any formal role in the parade is a critical step forward in refocusing our city’s attention on the more important issues facing Puerto Rico.”

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