Puerto Rico: US Colony in Revolt!
To Hell with All of the Corrupted Capitalist Politicians! For a Workers and Popular Government!
By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 12 August 2019, www.thecommunists.net
Last week the former governor of Puerto Rico Rosselló was forced to step down following weeks of massive anti-government protests. Protests were sparked by the release of private chat messages that exposed Rosselló and 11 top aides and Cabinet members exchanging profanity-laced, homophobic and misogynistic messages.
On July 21, 2019 Rosselló was forced to relinquish his role as president of one of the two main political parties in Puerto Rico and vowed not to seek reelection in 2020. But that was not enough for many Puerto Ricans. On July 22 hundreds of thousands paralyzed the capital, marching to call for the governor’s immediate resignation.
During some of the protests, people chanted “Ricky resign and bring the board with you!” referring to the fiscal oversight board established by Congress to manage the island’s horrible debt. Since its inception, Puerto Ricans have denounced the austerity measures imposed by the board — which is comprised of un-elected officials appointed by the White House.
Puerto Rico’s unbeloved Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as the third governor that island has had in less than a week. This is a reflection of the crisis of the junta serving US imperialism, facing the popular uprising.
Hours earlier, the highest court declared unconstitutional the governorship of former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s handpicked successor Pedro Pierluisi on grounds he had not been confirmed as secretary of state by both chambers of the legislature.
The Supreme Court decision in defense of the local capitalist system is not what the protesters demand. The decision is like replacing cholera with syphilis. Ricardo Rosselló’ was forced to resign because protesters have voiced opposition to him to Vázquez and Pierluisi.
The hated corrupted Pierluisi said on leaving that it is a time when we must all unite for Puerto Rico, leaving behind, ideological or personal agendas.
Vázquez said last Wednesday said in the statement released via Twitter that she respect the court ruling. Yes she respects the court acting for the ruling Junta but she has no respect for the majority of the Puerto Ricans still suffering from the effects of the, Hurricane Maria that violently hit the island in September 2017.
In April this year US President Trump lashed out at Puerto Rico’s local lawmakers as grossly incompetent. Trump was reacting after the US Senate blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for Midwestern states, in part because Democrats said a proposed $600 million in nutritional assistance to Puerto Rico fell short of its needs.
“Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess — nothing works,” Trump wrote on Twitter. He also stated, incorrectly, that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion in aid from the federal government. In fact, the $91 billion is the budget estimates of how much the island could receive over the next two decades.
At that time Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico, the loyal servant responded to Trump, said: “Mr. President, once again, we are not your adversaries, we are your citizens”. (1)
Trump has been widely criticized as too slow to help the devastated island. Aides and allies said that Trump had vented privately that Puerto Ricans had complained too much, and he had also noted privately that Hurricane Maria, which 3000 people as a result of the storm and its effects, was not as bad as Hurricane Katrina, in which 1,833 — were killed. Trump also implied that Puerto Rico was not part of the United States, noting that local elected officials “only take from USA.” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, seemed to underscore the view in the White House that Puerto Ricans were not Americans when he twice referred to the island as “that country” during an appearance on MSNBC.
For weeks, Mr. Rosselló has asked the White House for a private meeting with Mr. Trump to lay out the island’s case for why it desperately needs federal funds for rebuilding after Hurricane Maria. But Mr. Rosselló’s request has gone unanswered, and he has tried instead to communicate with the president publicly, saying in cable news interviews, in official appearances and on Twitter that he fears Mr. Trump has been misled about Puerto Rico’s needs.
Puerto Rico: an American Colony
On the eve of the Spanish-American war in 1898, Puerto Rico was in the process of becoming a sovereign and independent nation for the first time in its history since it was “discovered” by the Spanish in 1493. Before it was able to become an independent state, the American Navy bombarded the capital city of San Juan, exiling the Spanish leadership from the island, and imposed the American dominance.
The American imperialists invented a new term, “estado libre asociado” (freely associated state), in order to justify the colonial dominance over Puerto Rico. Cases like Puerto Rico are known as the “Insular Cases”, i.e. territories of the United States that are nevertheless not considered to be “part” of the United States.
To justify the colonization of Porto Rico the people of Porto Rico were described as savages and cannibals. For example William B. Bate, former U.S. Senator for Tennessee and a major general of the Confederacy said: “Masses of mongrels,” “peoples incapable of self-government,” “savages addicted to head-hunting and cannibalism.” (2)
In the 1930s the movement for national independence was crashed by the US federal government through overt censorship and the repeated jailing of revolutionary leaders, like Pedro Albizu Campo who was jailed in 1936 for organizing Puerto Rican workers. (3)
Nelson A Denis in his book “War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony“ documented the murdering, torturing, and imprisoning Puerto Rican patriots who demanded and fought for Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination. The leader of the independence movement, Pedro Albizu Campos, was imprisoned, tortured, and subjected to lethal radiation poisoning in his prison cell.
From the 1930s through the 1990s, the FBI kept secret files on over 100,000 Puerto Ricans. These files were known as “carpetas.”
As Nelson Denis wrote: “The carpetas were given additional teeth by Public Law 53, which became known as La Ley de la Mordaz (the Law of the Muzzle). For 10 years, from 1948 through 1957, Law 53 made it a felony to say a word, sing a song or whistle a tune about independence. If you sang La Borinqueña, or owned a Puerto Rican flag, you could be imprisoned for 10 years. Today, many people complain about “government intrusion” into our private lives, as if it were something new. But it is not new. Puerto Ricans suffered all of this, and much worse.”
The political system of the island since the 1950s has been wholly determined by the question of the legal status of Puerto Rico. The two biggest parties of the island, the PNP and the PPD, share different views of what our relationship to the mainland United States ought to be. One party favors statehood, while the other favors the continued existence of the ethically repugnant colonial status. Puerto Rico’s colonial status means islanders pay every federal tax except for the federal income tax. Those who criticize Puerto Rico as “enjoying the benefits of being American without paying the same taxes as everyone else” completely miss or ignore the basic fact that Puerto Rico does not enjoy any sort of congressional representation. Puerto Ricans who live in the island are also blocked from voting in presidential elections. (4)
The RCIT supports the right of self- determination of the Puerto Ricans. However to escape the US domination it is necessary to free the workers and the poor from the grip of the two capitalist parties and form a revolutionary workers party fighting for a workers and oppressed government as part of a world socialist revolution. Such a party will appeal to the workers and the oppressed in all the world and most importantly in the USA to prevent an invasion of the Island.
1) Michael Burke: Puerto Rico’s governor to Trump: ‘We are not your adversaries, we are your citizens’, 04/02/2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/news/437004-puerto-ricos-governor-to-trump-we-are-not-your-adversaries-we-are-your-citizens
2) Andrés RuizPuerto Rico: The Last Colony Oct 5, 2017 https://arcdigital.media/americas-historical-treatment-of-puerto-rico-shames-us-all-de51bbc78300
3) Becky Little: Puerto Rico’s Complicated History with the United States, 22.09.2017 https://www.history.com/news/puerto-ricos-complicated-history-with-the-united-states
4) Andrés Ruiz Puerto Rico: The Last Colony
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We refer readers also to other articles of the RCIT on the United States:
Yossi Schwartz: United States: The Need for a Labor Party, 23 July 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/united-states-the-need-for-a-labor-party/
Yossi Schwartz: The Racists Who Attack Rashida Tlaib, 15.05.2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/the-racists-who-attack-rashida-tlaib/
Robert Gibbs: USA: War rages on the Southern Border, U.S. Correspondent, 05 February 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/usa-war-rages-on-the-southern-border/
Robert Gibbs: The USA as a Settler Nation, 27 January 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/the-usa-as-a-settler-nation/
Yossi Schwartz: Massacres, Plundering and Land Grabbing: The Similarity and Dissimilarity between the U.S. and Israel, 27.11.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-similarity-and-dissimilarity-between-the-u-s-and-israel-in-massacres-plundering-and-land-grabbing/
RCIT: Central America / Mexico / U.S.: Solidarity with the Migrants’ Caravan! 01.11.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/central-america-mexico-u-s-solidarity-with-the-migrants-caravan/
Michael Pröbsting: US Presidential Election: The Victory of Donald Trump is a Historical Turning Point, 09.November 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/trump-victory/
Adam Beltz and Nina Gunić: US: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin — For a Revolutionary Black Liberation Movement! 13.12.2014, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/ferguson/