NEW YORK (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement Thursday night that Oscar Lopez Rivera would not have any "formal role" in the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Many sponsors and participants have pulled out because of the parade organizers' decision to honor nationalist Lopez Rivera, a man who was just released from prison over known ties to a terror group responsible for bombings in the United States.
De Blasio's statement said: "The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant. It is a celebration of a culture and community at the center of what makes New York City great. Unfortunately, the parade and the plight of Puerto Rico have been overshadowed by needless controversy. 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.
"Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million people, many of whom are family and loved ones of New Yorkers, are in the midst of an economic collapse and health care crisis that threatens their future. Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico deserve help from Washington and they are not receiving it. This should be our singular focus when it comes to Puerto Rico and our city's parade."
The Board of Directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade released a statement a short time later saying:
"We are looking forward to marching with Oscar Lopez Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue, 'not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.' Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico."
Meanwhile, the New York City Council speaker in a statement said, "Oscar López Rivera was pardoned by President Obama was never convicted of a violent crime and is one of dozens of honorees being recognized at the Puerto Rican Day Parade."
Lopez Rivera was released early last month after 36 years behind bars. The 74-year-old was a former member of the National Liberation of Armed Forces, commonly known as FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist group that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings in the 70s and 80s. That includes a deadly 1975 blast at Fraunces Tavern in New York City that killed four people.
Parade organizers planned to honor Lopez Rivera this year as a "national freedom hero."
Earlier last month, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced he'd be boycotting the parade in honor of the three officers who were injure don New Year's Eve in 1982 when the FALN set off four separate bombs in New York City. Lopez Rivera has never renounced the violence.
Lopez Rivera was convicted of sedition and transporting explosives and firearms. He was not convicted of complicity in this or other bombings, though federal agents say two homes connected to him had explosives in them.
JetBlue, AT&T, Coca-Cola and Goya Foods have also pulled their support.
WABC-TV is the English TV broadcast provider for the event. You can watch it on Channel 7.
The parade will be held on June 11 and recognizes 100 years of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans.
It will march along Fifth Avenue beginning at 11 a.m.
De Blasio: Oscar Lopez Rivera stepping aside from Puerto Rican Day Parade
NATIONAL PUERTO RICAN DAY PARADE
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