No Watermarks, No Masters: Palante

LIBERATED FROM THE ARCHIVES: 11 issues of Palante, the radical bilingual newspaper published from 1969-72 by the New York City chapter of the Young Lords. This is a record of urban resistance during a critical moment in this city’s history—a record unadulterated, unabridged, and set free from the historian’s retrospective gaze. From rent strikes to free breakfasts, from hijacks to breakouts, from occupation to expropriation, the struggles and solutions described within are familiar, even four decades on.

LIBERATED FROM THE ARCHIVES: 11 issues of Palante, the radical bilingual newspaper published from 1969-72 by the New York City chapter of the Young Lords. This is a record of urban resistance during a critical moment in this city’s history—a record unadulterated, unabridged, and set free from the historian’s retrospective gaze. From rent strikes to free breakfasts, from hijacks to breakouts, from occupation to expropriation, the struggles and solutions described within are familiar, even four decades on.

Individual PDFs are linked below. A .zip file containing all 11 issues is available here.

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 2. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 7. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 10. 28 Aug. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 12. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 13. 16 Oct. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 14. 30 Oct. 1970

Palante. Vol. 2 No. 15. 20 Nov. 1970

Palante. Vol. 3 No. 3. 19 Feb. 1971

Palante. Vol. 3 No. 4. 5 Mar. 1971

Palante. Vol. 3 No. 13. 1971

Palante. Vol. 3 No. 20. 23 Dec. 1971

Note: this is not an endorsement of the Young Lords Party’s sad and notoriously self-destructive Maoism.

Taken from: http://year0.org/2012/08/21/no-watermarks-no-masters/

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National Liberation of Puerto Rico and the Responsibilities of the U.S. Proletariat

Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (formerly the Young Lords Organization)

National Liberation of Puerto Rico and the Responsibilities of the U.S. Proletariat


First Published: Palante, Vol. 1, No. 1, November 1974
Republished in: In the U.S. Pregnant with Revisionism: The Struggle for Proletarian Revolution Moves Ahead. The Political Positions of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, November 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.


The present stage of capitalism is its highest and final stage: imperialism or monopoly capitalism. The small enterprises of early capitalism have become the gigantic monopolies of today – branches of industry grew and merged with the banks and have carved out a world-wide empire of oppression and super-exploitation.

V.I. Lenin, great teacher of the proletariat, states:

Imperialism is a world system of financial enslavement and colonial oppression.[1]

He goes on to say:

The characteristic feature of imperialism is that the whole world is divided into a large number of oppressed nations and an insignificant number of oppressing nations which command colossal wealth and powerful armed forces. The overwhelming majority of the world’s people belong to the oppressed nations which are either direct colonies, semi-colonies or neo-colonies.[2]

The aim of this system of world-wide plunder and super-exploitation is to secure ever increasing sources of raw materials and markets, cheap labor and super-profits. This system has brought nothing but suffering and death to the people of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the entire world; while it has filled the pockets of a handful of criminals and murderers.

The Colonies – Reserves of Imperialism

The colonies and dependent countries, oppressed by finance capital, constitute a vast reserve and a very important source of strength for imperialism.[3]

The imperialists use their colonies as markets to invest their profits, a source of raw materials, cheap labor, and further profits. They also use the colonies as a market to sell their products. In the colonies, the imperialists produce very cheaply what they need and sell their surplus very expensively.

With the huge super-profits they make in the colonies like Puerto Rico, the monopoly capitalists bribe and corrupt the upper sectors of the working class (the labor aristocracy)– and petty-bourgeoisie. These people serve their imperialist masters by trying to win the whole working class to support the imperialists’ policies and by promoting racism to divide the working class.

One of the chief causes which retard the revolutionary working-class movement in the developed capitalist countries is that, owing to the colonial possessions and the superprofits of finance capital, etc., capital has succeeded in these countries in singling out a relatively broader and more stable stratum, a small minority, a labor aristocracy. The latter enjoys better terms of employment and is most imbued with the narrow craft spirit and with petty-bourgeois and imperialist prejudices. This is the real social ’bulwark’ of the Second International, of the reformists and ’Centrists’ and at the present time it is almost the principal social bulwark of the bourgeoisie.[4]

Objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty-bourgeoisie and of certain working class strata (the labor aristocracy – editor) that have been bribed out of imperialist super-profits and converted into watchdogs of capitalism and corrupters of the labor movement.[5]

In addition, we would point out that under capitalism, crisis of overproduction are inevitable. So many commodities are produced as each capitalist strives for maximum profits, but under the conditions of the exploiting capitalist system, the workers’ wages, the purchasing power of the broad masses is held down-and therefore the capitalists can find no market for their products. One of the ways the capitalists try to get themselves out of this crisis is by dumping their surplus products onto the captive markets of the colonies.

Finally, the imperialists use the colonies to obtain manpower to form their armies and fight their wars. Also, the colonies themselves are used for military bases.

Puerto Rico – Colony of U.S. Imperialism

The colonial oppression of Puerto Rico by the U.S. began in 1898 when Puerto Rico was invaded by the armed forces of the U.S.

During the first 30 years of the occupation of Puerto Rico, the U.S. set up a military government to make Puerto Rico “safe” for American business; passed the Foraker Act in 1900 which said that all U.S. laws applied to Puerto Rico, and thus they “legalized” total U.S. control over every aspect of life in Puerto Rico. They imposed U.S. citizenship in 1917 through the Jones Act; this was done against the objections of the House of Delegates, the only elected body representing the Puerto Rican people at the time. They established military bases which today cover 14% of Puerto Rico and use these bases to launch military attacks on the other people of the Caribbean who are also fighting for liberation, like the invasion of Santo Domingo in 1965 by U.S. troops which were stationed in Puerto Rico.

American corporations began to sink massive sums of capital into Puerto Rico to “develop the island”, thereby bringing all of Puerto Rico’s industry and commerce under U.S. control. Today the U.S. controls production in Puerto Rico and monopolizes trade, extracting raw materials and semi-processed materials at a low price from Puerto Rico.

The U.S. drove small farmers and agricultural workers off the land to build huge plantations for the giant American sugar and tobacco corporations. They kept unemployment very high to guarantee a supply of cheap labor. Today, official statistics of the colonial government report unemployment at 30%. They kept wages low by preventing unionization. Only 1 out of every 4 Puerto Rican workers (25%) is unionized. They justified this by saying that unions “frighten” away American businessmen.

Puerto Rico is under total executive, legislative and judicial control by the U.S. The U.S. has exclusive jurisdiction over all questions of citizenship, foreign affairs, defense, immigration, foreign trade, currency, postal service, communications media, air and maritime transport. By passing laws saying Puerto Rico could not trade with any other countries without U.S. approval, the U.S. has made Puerto Rico a captive consumer; today Puerto Rico is the fourth largest consumer of U.S. goods in the world.

Under the guise of turning Puerto Rico into a “Caribbean showcase of development”, the U.S. implemented various economic plans including “Operation Bootstrap”. Operation Bootstrap was nothing more than an attempt to increase, make easier, and legitimize the economic penetration of Puerto Rico by U.S. monopolies. Under this program, the colonial government exempted U.S, corporations from paying taxes for 10-25 years depending on where they locate their plant.

To maintain the image of a “self-governing” Puerto Rico, the U.S. hand-picked politicians, like Munoz Marin, to rule in their interests. It was this colonial lackey who carried out the U.S. policy of murder and repression against the patriots of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. Today, Hernandez Colon continues this policy of persecution of the independence and workers movements.

Like other colonies, Puerto Rico has provided soldiers for the imperialist armies. 200,000 Puerto Ricans served in World War I. 400,000 served in World War II; 40,000 in the aggression against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1950, and thousands more in the U.S. aggression in Vietnam.

The colonization of Puerto Rico has meant suffering for the Puerto Rican people. The average weekly income in Puerto Rico in 1970 was $70. Statistics reveal that 81.8% of the population earns less than $3,000 a year. Wages in Puerto Rico are half that of the U.S., and the cost of living is 25% higher. Clearly, Puerto Rico has been converted into a reserve for U.S. monopolies that use the Puerto Rican people as cheap labor and exploit the island’s natural resources.

How have the imperialist bourgeoisie profited from the colonization of Puerto Rico?

85% of business in Puerto Rico is controlled by American capital. The profits on these investments amounted to $83,600,000 in 1959; $115 million in 1960; $281 million in 1966. By 1970, these profits had risen to $583 million.

Where There Is Oppression, There Is Resistance

History teaches us that wherever there is oppression, there is resistance; and the super-exploitation of the colonial and dependent peoples is no exception. In spite of desperate shows of force by the imperialists, country after country has taken up arms against U.S. imperialism; and day by day, around the world, the fight against imperialism gains momentum.

National wars against the imperialist powers are not only possible and probable, they are inevitable; they are progressive and revolutionary…[6]

In Puerto Rico, too, this revolutionary momentum is growing. The many years of oppression and exploitation of the Puerto Rican nation has also meant long years of revolutionary struggle by the masses of Puerto Rican people – from the 1937 Ponce Massacre, to the armed uprising in Jayuya and other areas in 1950, to the militant strikes by the working class. In 1969, General Electric workers struck in Palmer. This strike was one of the longest and most militant in Puerto Rico’s history. In 1972, workers of the American-owned newspaper, El Mundo went on strike. The strike lasted 7 months, and was met by intense repression by the colonial state apparatus. In 1973, electrical workers went out on strike, affecting the entire island. Immediately following this, the firemen and sanitation workers in San Juan went on strike.

As his solution to the critical situation created by the three simultaneous strikes, the governor of Puerto Rico, comprador bourgeois Hernandez Colon, called out the National Guard. This had not been done since the 1950 uprising. Increasingly, the workers’ struggles are being linked with the independence movement, and the independence movement continues to grow.

Added to this situation has been the militant struggle of the university and high school students, who have confronted the colonial regime with demands around the democratic rights of the students and firm political demonstrations against U.S. imperialism.

In August 1972, the U.N. Special Committee for De-Colonization, after a number of sessions, presented its report and resolutions concerning Puerto Rico. The report said that the Committee:

1. Reaffirms the inalienable right of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, in accordance with General Assembly-resolution 15H (XV) of 14 December, 1960.

2. Requests the Government of the United States of America to refrain from taking any measures which might obstruct the full and free exercise by the people of their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, as well as of their economic, social and other rights, and, in particular, to prevent any violation of these rights by bodies corporate under its jurisdiction.

The report also stated that the U.N. Secretariat would help collect all pertinent information, including “the views of all the parties concerned” for the purpose of facilitating the consideration of the question in 1974; and that the Committee would “keep the question under continuous review.”

The people of the world, most especially we, the people of the U.S., must applaud this decision of the De-Colonization Committee, which demands that the U.S. respect the right of self-determination. The report puts the question of the colonial status of Puerto Rico on the U.N. agenda and therefore puts it before the peoples of the world in terms of getting out information about Puerto Rico’s historic struggle for national liberation.

However, at the same time, we must understand that the national liberation of Puerto Rico will not come out of the decisions of the De-Colonization Committee. The American imperialists do not recognize any people’s right of self-determination. Nor will national liberation come by demanding that the U.S. imperialists celebrate a “Bi-Centennial Without Colonies.” Imperialism is a world-wide system of plunder and subjugation. It is the highest stage of capitalism, not a policy chosen by the bourgeoisie. Imperialism can’t live without colonies. It is parasitic, and as such it is a blood-sucker, sucking the blood of the world’s people. And it is moribund, fighting until its last breath.

The Chinese comrades have said:

Hence, imperialism and all reactionaries must be looked at, in essence, from a long-term point of view, from a strategic point of view, must be seen for what they are…paper tigers. On this we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers which can devour people. On this we should build our tactical thinking.

The comrades have made clear that this enemy will not step down from the stage of history on its own accord. No, for in the epoch of imperialism, the contradiction between the colonies and imperialism will be resolved only by the method of national revolutionary war.

The liberation of Puerto Rico must be accomplished by the masses led by the proletariat and its vanguard party, a Marxist-Leninist party, in armed struggle. Today the situation in Puerto Rico is in a revolutionary upsurge – that is the objective situation. However there is still no party of the proletariat and the building of this vanguard party remains the central task for all communists in Puerto Rico. At the same time, the communist forces must lead the masses consciously against U.S. imperialism.

Putting forward such slogans as “Bi-Centennial Without Colonies” does not accomplish this task, and the slogan itself is in contradiction to Marxism-Leninism. It spreads illusions, social-pacifist (socialist in words, pacifist in deeds) illusions, bourgeois illusions. It also belittles the role and responsibility of the communists in Puerto Rico, as well as belittling the responsibility of the proletariat of the U.S.

What is the responsibility of the U.S. proletariat towards, the oppressed nation of Puerto Rico and all other colonies?

Responsibility of the U.S. Proletariat

The responsibility of communists (the advanced detachment of the working class) and the proletariat in the oppressor nation is to first and foremost understand that no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.

We must fight for the right to political secession for the colonies and for nations that the bourgeoisie of the U.S. oppresses, i.e. the right to determine their own destiny. For, as Comrade Lenin said:

Failure to carry out this responsibility means that proletarian internationalism will remain a meaningless phrase, and class solidarity between the workers of the oppressed nation and the oppressing nation will remain impossible.[8]

This means that the proletariat cannot and must not evade this most fundamental question. The recognition of internationalism must not be limited to words – and then implement petty-bourgeois nationalism and pacifism.

Our responsibility is to carry out direct revolutionary propaganda and revolutionary mass action for the liberation of the colonies. We must struggle against all forms of national oppression and spread propaganda among the proletariat of the U.S.

This is how, concretely, we give aid; how, concretely, we turn the colonies from reserves of imperialism into reserves of the proletariat. For Lenin states that failing to do this is acting like lackeys of “the blood and mud-stained imperialist bourgeoisie.” [9]

We can point to organizations that have failed to do this, that have become instead agents of the bourgeoisie, specifically, the “CP”USA (Revisionist). The “CP” has betrayed the cause of the class as well as the liberation struggle of Black people for self-determination and the oppressed national minorities for democratic rights. The “CP” advocates “peaceful transition to socialism” and they, therefore, do not call for the armed overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. These revisionist dogs have killed the essence of Marxism and, as such, are class enemies of the world’s people.

The “CP”USA is a direct appendage and mouthpiece of the modern revisionists of the Soviet Union, who usurped the party of Lenin, restored the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and capitalism in the Soviet Union. Today, the U.S.S.R. is social-imperialist (socialist in words and imperialist and bloodsucking in deeds) and stands alongside the U.S. imperialists as a superpower, enslaving, exploiting and oppressing the world’s people.

These international revisionists are responsible for the temporary setbacks of the proletariat. They work hand-in-hand with international imperialism and reaction. They pave the way for the reactionaries by creating illusions in the people’s minds about the “peaceful road” to socialism. These modern revisionists were responsible for thousands of murders and slaying of the Chilean people, for it was they who disarmed the masses(both ideologically and materially, by opposing the arming of the masses) and left the masses defenseless in the face of the enemy’s fascist attack.

Internationally, the genuine Bolsheviks, led by the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labor of Albania, are struggling against these treacherous enemies and have firmly drawn the line of demarcation in the international communist movement.

The CPC and PLA have provided the international proletariat with valuable experiences and have upheld the teachings of the great teachers of the proletariat: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. They have staunchly upheld the words of Lenin that the struggle against imperialism is a “sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.”

For these reasons, we criticize PSP for uniting with and not struggling against the “CP”USA(R). This is nothing but conciliation with opportunism and class collaboration. To unite with the “CP”USA(R) is to betray the mighty cause of the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico.

Many people have asked, what is the role of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. in these struggles? In the next section, we will address ourselves to this question.

Oppressed Puerto Rican National Minority–Part of Multi-National U.S. Working Class

There is no doubt that in the early stages of capitalism, nations become welded. But there is also no doubt that in the higher stages of capitalism, a process of dispersion of nations sets in, a process whereby whole groups, in search of a livelihood, separate from nations, subsequently settling finally in other regions of the state; in the course of which, these settlers lose their old contacts, acquire new contacts in their new domicile, from generation to generation acquire new habits and new tastes, and possibly a new language…[10]

We must also criticize PSP for their “divided nation” theory; they hold that Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and those in the United States constitute one nation. This theory is counter to the Marxist definition of a nation.

A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture…It must be emphasized that none of the above characteristics is by itself sufficient to define a nation. On the other hand, it is sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be absent and the nation ceases to be a nation.[11]

We hold that the Puerto Rican nation exists in Puerto Rico, and that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. over the decades have become an oppressed national minority – overwhelmingly workers, we are part of the U.S. multi-national proletariat. We do not believe that the case of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. is unique – it adheres to a general historical pattern.

Why do we say Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are an oppressed national minority? Living, working and raising our families here in the U.S., Puerto Ricans form part of the U.S. working class. As part of this U.S. multi-national working class, we are rooted in the imperialist economy of the U.S. and not the colonial economy of Puerto Rico.

Forced to migrate from Puerto Rico, we find ourselves in a different country, living and developing under different material conditions. Trapped in the urban ghettoes of the U.S., interacting with working people of other nationalities, faced with blatant racism from the mass media (the propaganda arm of the capitalist ruling class), discriminated against by all the society’s institutions (like the schools, courts, hospitals, etc.) and brutalized by the capitalists’ armed protectors, the police, we have developed differently than if we were living in Puerto Rico. Our living conditions, our environment, has shaped how we see the world; and in order to survive, we must deal with the stark reality of life and class struggle within the belly of the monster itself.

It is definitely true that we do retain much of our Puerto Rican culture and tradition from the island, and this is a good thing; we must militantly struggle against all attempts to deny us our history, culture and traditions. However, even in this area, we can see some inevitable changes. Take language, for instance. We must continue and intensify our fight for the right to bilingual education. At the same time, we recognize that while older Puerto Ricans generally speak Spanish, we have thousands of Puerto Rican youth who have been educated in American schools where English is the primary language, and we have another generation within the schools today. (48.6% of the Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are 17 years or younger, and 31.7% are 9 years old or younger). We find that Puerto Rican youth, educated in the U.S., increasingly use English as their main form of communication. As for the future, we believe that this trend can only be further in this direction, as generation after generation develops in a nation that has English as its official language.

Finally, with a change in territory, environment, the pressures upon us as exploited and oppressed people in America, along with our relationship to other oppressed nationalities in the U.S., our culture, too, is undergoing transformation. We can see this in the way we dress, what we eat, our music, the relationship between men and women, family relations, and political, racial and religious attitudes, etc.

For these reasons, we believe it is incorrect to say, as PSP does, that:

Our Party’s General Declaration starts by affirming that Puerto Rico is a Latin American nation with 4 million nationals, of which 2,700,000 live on the island and the rest (more than a third) are concentrated in New York and other places in the United States.[12]

This is nothing but the “divided nation” theory, a theory which is alien to Marxism-Leninism, contrary to the Marxist analysis of what constitutes a nation and how imperialism causes peoples to leave oppressed nations in search of a better life.

We, as the Young Lords Party, once held this erroneous theory, but we have since repudiated it, understanding that it is not in the interests of the oppressed Puerto Rican national minority, the multi-national U.S. proletariat, or the struggle of the Puerto Rican nation.

PSP holds that one part of the nation is in Puerto Rico and another part is in the U.S., and that the two parts are connected by an “air bridge.” This is the theory of Otto Bauer, whom Stalin struggled against. Bauer also said that a nation is “a union of similarly thinking and similarly speaking persons. It is a cultural community of modern people no longer tied to the soil.”[13] (our emphasis) Bauer, like PSP today, divorced the nation from its soil, its territory, and converted it into an invisible, self-contained force. This resulted, as comrade Stalin puts it, in not a living nation, but something mystical and intangible.[14]

The history of the oppressed Puerto Rican national minority has its roots in the colonization of Puerto Rico, which forced 2 million Puerto Ricans to the U.S. in search of a better life. What we found was hunger, humiliation and continual denying of our democratic rights. The racism that was used to justify the colonization of Puerto Rico was used to justify having us slave for the lowest wages and forcing us to live under the most terrible conditions.

This is the life we found in the U.S. We came from Puerto Rico to the U.S. – different territory, language, and different soil. We were now in the multi-national U.S. We were now exploited as part of the multi-national proletariat and oppressed as a national minority. Even the hopes of returning have remained just an idea for the overwhelming majority of us, because the income most of us earn will never make this idea materialize.

There is another important point to note here. Lenin and Stalin pointed out that in a multi-national state, to divide the workers and, indeed, the communists, by nationality weakens the solidarity of the class. The U.S. proletariat must have one multi-national Marxist-Leninist party, not two – with all Puerto Ricans in a separate party.

As part of the multi-national U.S. proletariat, Puerto Ricans in the U.S. have the responsibility of struggling here, in the belly of the monster, alongside the rest of our class, to knock this vicious enemy of the world’s people to its knees and finish it off and dump it into the garbage can of history. This is our duty to the national liberation struggle of Puerto Rico and all the oppressed peoples of the world, because as long as U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism exist, the world’s people can never have a real, everlasting peace.

Ours is the task to struggle against all attacks on the working class and demand freedom of movement for the oppressed nationalities to be able to propagandize and agitate for self-determination, to defend the democratic rights of the oppressed peoples. We know that, in order to do these things, and defeat our enemy, we must also IN DEEDS fight for the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the entire world; and we accept this responsibility and commit ourselves to doing all we can to weaken and destroy our common enemy and to turn the reserves of the imperialists into reserves of the international proletariat.

We dedicate ourselves to the education and organization of the working class, and to the building of the organization that will be able to righteously lead the masses onto the final onslaught against the bourgeoisie – the party of the proletariat. We believe that this is the greatest contribution we can make to the struggle of the world’s people for liberation.

We also believe that the struggle of the entire U.S. working class against the monopoly capitalist butchers, the struggle of the Puerto Rican sector of the U.S. working class against discrimination, for democratic rights and for the liberation of Puerto Rico and all colonies must be led by an ideology, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought, and an organization, the multi-national communist party of the U.S., which we must form if we are to be victorious. It is the only way we can combat the attacks of the imperialists, bring forward and train advanced people to be revolutionaries, sum up and learn from our experiences in a systematic way, expose the opportunists that work to keep the working class divided and confused, give leadership to the many struggles of the people, and link our struggles together, based on a short-range and long-range plan, and ultimately put the imperialists into the grave.

We in the PRRWO, as proletarian internationalists, unite with the Puerto Rican Solidarity Day activity and urge all revolutionary-minded people to come out to extend support to the liberation of Puerto Rico. However, we want to make clear that we do not unite with the slogan, “Bi-Centennial Without Colonies” and most especially denounce the treacherous dogs of the “CP”USA(R) for serving the imperialists by trying to lull the masses to sleep, create confusion, and destroy the revolutionary content of Marxism-Leninism. It is our responsibility to defeat all shades of opportunism in order to effectively destroy U.S. imperialism.

To sum up: The world is in great disorder. This disorder propels the development of the international situation further in the direction favorable to the proletariat and the oppressed peoples and un-favorable to imperialism. Wars of national liberation and proletarian revolutionary struggles are raging all over the world. In the camp of the reactionaries, we have contention and collusion between the superpowers as they maneuver to crush the people’s struggles and further redivide the world. On the other hand, the mighty revolutionary upsurge of the masses places the dictatorship of the proletariat on the agenda for the U.S. proletariat.

If Europe and America may be called the front, the scene of the main engagements between socialism and imperialism, the non-sovereign nations and the colonies, with their raw materials, fuel, food and vast store of human material, should be regarded as the rear, the reserves of imperialism. In order to win a war, one must not only triumph at the front, but must also revolutionize the enemy’s rear, his reserves. Hence, the victory of the world proletarian revolution may be regarded as assured only if the proletariat is able to combine its own revolutionary struggle with the movement for emancipation of the toiling masses of the non-sovereign nations and the colonies against the power of the imperialists and-for a dictatorship of the proletariat.[15]

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!
WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD UNITE!
!QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE Y SOCIALISTA!

FOOTNOTES

[1] Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Foundations of Leninism, Stalin.

[4] “Thesis on the Fundamental Tasks of the Second Congress of the Communist International”, Lenin.

[5] “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, Lenin.

[6} “The Pamphlet by Junius”, Lenin.

[7] Ibid. [Not in body of text – EROL]

[8] ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Marxism and the National Question”, Stalin.

[11] “Ibid”.

[12] “Desde las Entranas”, U.S. Branch of PSP.

[13] ”Marxism and the National Question”, Stalin.

[14] Ibid., “The Bund, its Nationalism and its Separatism”, Stalin.

[15] “New Features of the National Question”, Stalin.

Revolutionary Miguel Cruz Santos: 1958-2014

By on February 24, 2014

Miguel Cruz Santos

Miguel Cruz Santos, a tireless fighter for the working class and a defender of socialism, died on Feb. 6 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the early age of 56.

A memorial in his honor was held on Feb. 9 at the Ehret Funeral Home there where hundreds of activists, trade unionists and socialists praised his life’s work. In attendance were also his spouse, Oui Belissa, and son, Miguelito, and members of the Communist Party of Puerto Rico, of which Miguel was a founding member.

Miguel was a teacher who politically impacted thousands of students and workers throughout his life. Miguel had been a member of the earlier Communist Party when it dissolved in the 1980s and committed himself then to the party’s rebirth.

Above all, Miguel was a Leninist, giving classes in historical materialism and working in the teachers’ movement in Puerto Rico for the democratic participation of the workers. Recently, he militantly opposed the Puerto Rican government’s reduction of retirement benefits for teachers and use of this money to pay for the current capitalist debt crisis.

Miguel was an anti-imperialist who opposed all U.S. wars against oppressed countries during his lifetime. He was a defender of the Soviet Union and worked tirelessly to form alliances with revolutionaries in Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Venezuela.

Miguel was a founding member of the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba, the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade, the Socialist Front, Communist Rebirth and the Vladimir Lenin School. Miguel and Oui Belissa also founded the anti-capitalist newspaper, Abayarde Rojo.

Miguel was a working-class fighter and internationalist. In recent times, he worked tirelessly to get the U.S. Navy out of the island of Vieques, opposed U.S. wars against Yugoslavia and Iraq, and was a delegate to the Trade Unionists Assembly, which launched the Peoples General Strike in 1998 to oppose the privatization of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co.

Miguel’s spirit of struggle and commitment to building socialism and communism were the cornerstones of his life. His comrades, fellow union activists and socialists at the memorial all praised his life’s work and committed themselves to continuing and advancing the struggle for a socialist future. Miguel Cruz Santos, presente!

The writer was a friend of Miguel Cruz Santos and attended his memorial.

Taken from: http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/02/24/revolutionary-miguel-cruz-santos-1958-2014/

UN General Assembly, June 23rd 2014, Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Supporting Puerto Rico’s ‘Inalienable Right to Self-Determination’

Special Committee on Decolonization

4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

 

Special Committee on Decolonization Approves Text Supporting Puerto Rico’s

 

‘Inalienable Right to Self-Determination’

 

 

Speakers Call on United States to ‘End Subjugation’, Release Political Prisoners

 

The Special Committee on Decolonization today called on the United States to again expedite a process that would allow the people of Puerto Rico to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, as well as take decisions, in a sovereign manner, to address their economic and social needs.

 

By a resolution approved by consensus, the Committee would have the General Assembly urge the United States to complete the return of occupied land and installations on Vieques Island and in Ceiba to Puerto Rico, respect fundamental human rights and cover the costs of decontaminating areas previously used in military exercises.

 

Also by the text, the Special Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — would have the Assembly reiterate its request to release Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio.  Both individuals were political prisoners serving sentences in the United States for cases relating to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.  The text also expressed concern about the actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence fighters and encouraged an investigation of those actions.

 

The Assembly, by other terms, would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, and reiterate that the Puerto Rican people constituted a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own unequivocal national identity.

 

Cuba’s representative, introducing the text, said it reflected the international community’s urgent call to end the colonial status of Puerto Rico, which had been unable to exercise its right to self-determination and independence, despite 32 previous resolutions.  In addition, he said, Puerto Ricans had rejected the current status of political subordination in November 2012.

 

Iran’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination and independence on the basis of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).

 

Throughout the day, nearly 50 petitioners outlined their views on Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, which many stressed must change drastically to ensure a better future for the island’s 3.2 million inhabitants.

 

Several reaffirmed the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) — the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — and of the Special Committee’s 32 resolutions on Puerto Rico’s situation.  The self-determination process did not require United States congressional approval, they said, and that country should cooperate with Puerto Ricans to design a decolonization mechanism.

 

Many petitioners argued for Puerto Rico’s independence.  Wilma E. Reveron Collazo, Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, said Puerto Rico’s sovereignty had been illegally taken over by the United States.  It was a Latin American and Caribbean country that must participate fully in the United Nations.  The Legislator had put forward bills to convene a constitutional assembly — an independent body of elected representatives who would draft or adopt a constitution — which would guarantee the start of a self-determination process.  People must be educated about their decolonization options, and efforts should be supervised by the Special Committee.

 

Others pointed to ways that United States corporations had exploited local populations, dislocating neighbourhoods, forcing businesses to close and, in the case of pharmaceutical companies, contaminating the soil.  Héctor Cintrón Príncipe, Consejo Nacional Para la Descolonización, said hormone-injected animals and junk food sold by the United States had created serious health problems for Puerto Ricans, who in turn had no choice but to depend on drugs sold by United States pharmaceutical companies.

 

Another clear example of subjugation, said Evelyn Román Montalvo, Coalición Puertorriqueña contra la Pena de Muerte, was the forced application of capital punishment on Puerto Ricans convicted on federal charges, despite that the island had outlawed that practice in 1929.  The text should recognize Puerto Rico as the only place where the death penalty continued to be applied after people had rejected it.

 

Some speakers took a different view of the United States relationship.  John Ross Serrano Sanabria, College Republican Federation of Puerto Rico, said Puerto Rico was not a country, but a United States territory inhabited by American citizens with a particular culture.  The island’s Governor was the Head of Government, just as in the other 50 states.  He asked the Committee to include Puerto Rico on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and press the United States Congress to admit it as the fifty-first state.  Edwin Pagan, Generación 51, added that resolution 1514 (XV) outlined the parameters for establishing statehood.

 

Still others called on the Committee to recognize the Taínos people as the only representatives of the Borinquen nation.  Evaristo Silva Cintrón, Hermandad Taína, joined others in calling for the Borinquen state to have a seat in the General Assembly.  Francis A. Boyle, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, asked the Special Committee to credential the sovereign Borinquen state.

 

The imprisonment in the United States of pro-independence Puerto Ricans was one concern about which a number of speakers rallied, with many calling for the immediate, unconditional release of Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio.  A few asked for a pause in deliberations for 33 seconds, in honour of Mr. López Rivera’s 33-year struggle for justice.

 

Other petitioners addressing the Special Committee today were representatives of the following organizations:  Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, New Progressive Party, Madres contra la Guerra, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, Boricuas por un Nuevo País, Coordinadora Nacional de las Actividades del Cerro de los Mártires, Puerto Rican Committee of the United Nations, Puerto Rican Independence Party, American Association of Jurists, Alianza Comunitaria de Boriken, Puertorriqueños Unidos En Accion, Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico, ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, Unión Nacional de Estudiantes, New York Solidarity with Vieques, Oficina de Asuntos Comunitarios e Indígenas, Juventud Boricua, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, Frente Autonomista, Igualdad, Citizens Movement for Statehood, Socialist Workers Party, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, Movimiento Union Soberanista de Puerto Rico, League of United Latin American Citizens, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, High School Republicans of Puerto Rico, New York Coordinator to Free Oscar López Rivera, Puerto Rico No Se Vende, Accion Soberanista, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico-Movimiento Libertador-Junta Nacional, Renacer Ideologico Estadista, Boricua Ahora Es, Graduate School of Public Health-University of Puerto Rico, Grupo por la Igualdad y la Justicia de Puerto Rico, Frente Patriotico Arecibeño, and the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.

 

Also speaking today were representatives of Nicaragua, Venezuela, Syria, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

 

The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 24 June, to address the Questions of New Caledonia, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

 

Background

 

The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to consider a report prepared by the Rapporteur on the Special Committee’s decision of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/2014/L.13), and a related draft resolution (document A/AC.109/2014/L.6).

 

Introduction of Draft Resolution

 

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), presenting a draft resolution on the Special Committee’s decision of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico, said that the text reflected the international community’s urgent call to put an end to the colonial status of Puerto Rico, which had not been able to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and independence.  Despite 32 previous resolutions, little progress had been made.  Puerto Rico had been a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own identify.  The text also reflected the will of Puerto Ricans, who rejected the current state of subordination in November 2012.

 

Hearing of Petitioners

 

ANA IRMA RIVERA LASSEN, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, called for the release of Oscar López Rivera.  In the last referendum, the majority of Puerto Ricans had rejected staying in the same situation of colonization.  There were various positions to find a mechanism whereby Puerto Ricans could decide their political status without restraints.  Her college aimed to clarify, promote and educate people towards working together to change their status.  Its 2002 resolution had recommended consultations be held so that Puerto Ricans could express their views on convening a constitutional assembly to determine relations with the United States.  It would be subject to referendum.  It would meet in an independent manner, establish its own electoral rules, and have a democratic representation for the constitution of a political state.  The only way to end Puerto Rico’s colonized status was to start a process for a constitutional assembly.

 

WILMA E. REVERON COLLAZO, Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, said her group fought for Puerto Rico’s independence and social justice, citing the case of Oscar López Rivera, who was “the Mandela” of Latin America.  Puerto Rico was a Latin American and Caribbean country and it must participate fully in the United Nations.  Its sovereignty had been illegally taken over by the United States, and today it suffered from unemployment, crime and poverty.  Further, the economy was under siege by United States corporations, which had displaced small shops.  The Legislator had put forward bills to convene a constitutional assembly, which would guarantee that a self-determination process could be started.  People must be educated about their decolonization options, a process that should be supervised by the Special Committee, and the United States should be required to accept Puerto Ricans’ decisions without congressional approval.

 

PEDRO PIERLUISI, New Progress Party, said Puerto Ricans were proud of both the Puerto Rico flag and the United States flag.  In the November 2012 vote on its political status, 54 per cent had rejected the current political status and 61 per cent had supported the integration into the United States as a state.  The United States Government had endorsed a fund of $2.5 million to hold a plebiscite to determine whether Puerto Rico should become a state.  The process should be simple, with a “yes” or “no” question, the same process adopted for Alaska and Hawaii.   

 

SONIA SANTIAGO HERNÁNDEZ, Madres contra la Guerra, said that the current colonial situation and the United States’ militarism had caused many problems in Puerto Rico, including a high unemployment rate.  United States military recruiters were not telling the truth about the risks involved going to war.  Those citizens who had refused to go to war had been imprisoned and a high percentage of those who returned from wars were suffering from trauma.  Hospitals treating veterans did not receive enough funding.

 

EDUARDO VILLANUEVA MUÑOZ, Comit é de Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, requested that Oscar López Rivera be released, asking why the United States President had denied numerous international calls.  History had shown that political prisoners posed no risk to the national security of the United States.  Mr. López Rivera was a symbol of resistance for his people and holding him prisoner had not dissuaded those who believed in his ideals.  The Special Committee had approved more than 10 resolutions, ratified by the Assembly, which should be considered by the institutions to which they referred.  The Committee could play a role in the request to free Mr. López Rivera, and its Chair should meet with the United States Attorney General to update him about the situation of Mr. López Rivera.  The Attorney General could then inform the United States President of the support for that Puerto Rican compatriot.

 

EVARISTO SILVA CINTRÓN, Hermandad Ta ína, recalled the invasion of Puerto Rico by Spanish explorers, saying his people had only grown stronger over more than 100 years, having restored its former government and re-established the national sovereign assembly of the Boricua.  Despite brutal aggression by the United States, his people continued to resist.  He declared his people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, stressing that they had never recognized United States control over Puerto Rico.  His people had suffered poverty and exploitation under United States imperialism.  He called on the Special Committee to recognize his people, the only representatives of the Borinquen nation, and for the Borinquen state to have a seat in the General Assembly.  He also urged for the immediate release of Oscar López Rivera.

 

MARIA VILLENEUVE, Boricuas por un Nuevo País, said that, as a psychologist, educator and mother, the colonial state of Puerto Rico was “slavery” perpetuated by the United States, causing unseen damage to social and economic structures.  Such damage was similar to that of rape and child abuse, she stressed, calling for Puerto Rico’s sovereignty as a new country.

 

FRANCISCO R. JORDÁN GARCÍA, Coordinadora Nacional de las Actividades del Cerro de los Mártires, providing a historic account of the fight against invaders, first against Spanish and later Americans, called for the immediate release of political prisoners.  The Special Committee should request the General Assembly to recognize Puerto Rico as a new Member State.

 

OLGA SANABRIA DAVILA, Puerto Rican Committee of the United Nations, said the committee had worked for more than 40 years on the presentation of Puerto Rico’s case to the Organization.  Puerto Rico was a Latin American and Caribbean country with 8 million people, half of whom were in the United States.  They had long fought for sovereignty and independence.  There were major areas of convergence among her people, including on the peaceful nature of Vieques, on opposition to the death penalty, on sovereignty vis-à-vis sports teams, on the constitutional assembly and on the release of political prisoners, notably Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio.  She reaffirmed the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) and of the Special Committee’s 32 resolutions on Puerto Rico’s situation.  The self-determination process must be free.  Her people were calling for a change.  She pressed the United States to stop holding plebiscites outside the scope of international law and to advance towards a decolonization mechanism.

 

JUAN DALMAU, Puerto Rican Independence Party, said that while Puerto Ricans had the primary responsibility for bringing about decolonization, the international community also had a fundamental role to play.  The draft resolution was the product of decades of work, he said, confirming the applicability of resolution 1514 (XV) on the situation of Puerto Rico and calling on United States to allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their rights.  The objective could not be to “jump through legal hoops”; it must be to pressure the United States to meet its obligations and cooperate with Puerto Ricans to design a decolonization process.  That goal required an explanation of the colonial case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly.  Today’s resolution referred to paragraphs that had been approved by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in January.  That language constituted a call for a programme of political initiatives to end colonialism in the region.

 

OSVALDO TOLEDO, American Association of Jurists, stressed that Article 73 of the Charter had not been respected regarding non-autonomous status of Puerto Rico.  The General Assembly should adhere to its commitment to protect the inalienable right to self-determination of all states.  United States President Barack Obama should listen to the voices of Puerto Ricans calling for freedom.  He called for releases of political prisoners who had been tortured and mistreated.

 

LILY CASTRO, Alianza Comunitaria de Boriken, pointed out that illegal occupation by the United States led to a number of problems, including poverty.  Puerto Ricans had to emigrate in search of work.  They lost their culture and language.  Such ills as drug and alcohol addiction and high crime rates were among the problems caused by illegal occupation.  A fourth of the entire population had psychological problems.  She supported sovereignty that had never ceded to imperialists.

 

FRANCIS A. BOYLE, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said he represented the national sovereign state of Borinquen.  The alleged Doctrine of Discovery did not justify Spain’s occupation of Puerto Rico and the Taínos.  In fact, Spain had violated the just war doctrine.  The Indians of America were entitled to the restitution of their kingdom, which must include the restoration of destroyed monarchical societies of those lands.  That was what the Boricua had done.  Spain had devolved self-government powers on Puerto Rico.  Yet, under a “bogus” pretext, the United States had illegally conquered the de facto independent state of Puerto Rico and set up a genocidal situation.  Since 1898, the United States had been the illegal occupying Power of Puerto Rico.  It was beyond time for the United States to evacuate Puerto Rico so that the sovereign state of Borinquen could exercise its right of self-determination.  He pressed the Special Committee to credential the sovereign state of Borinquen and the United States to free Oscar López Rivera.

 

HÉCTOR CINTRÓN PRÍNCIPE, Consejo Nacional Para la Descolonizaci ón, said his people had been forced to work for the enrichment of another nation, asking delegates for the definition of a colony if that was not one.  Everything had been done to accommodate the United States.  The pharmaceutical industry of the United States had contaminated the soil, and now those companies were leaving.  Another aggression had converted his peoples’ health into something to be negotiated with North Americans.  Junk food was given to children through commercial propaganda, which had led to health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and cancer.  Hormones given to animals had led to early pubescence, unwanted pregnancies and unproductivity.  Those conditions had been made so that Puerto Ricans would buy United States pharmaceuticals.  Consejo Nacional had been recognized as the only legitimate government of Puerto Rico and it should have a seat in the General Assembly.

 

MANUEL RIVERA, Puertorriqueños Unidos En Accion, noted that, due to an imperial economic policy, a large number of Puerto Ricans had immigrated, diminishing Puerto Rico’s population over the decades and plunging its economy into recession.  The diaspora had resulted in 4.5 million Puerto Ricans currently living overseas.  He called for the active participation of the diaspora in the determination of Puerto Rico’s political future, the release of political prisoners, and for the return of land currently occupied by United States military.

 

DORIS PIZARRO CLAUDIO, Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico, said the Special Committee should facilitate a genuine, democratic and participatory decolonization process, rejecting a unilateral process by the United States.  Lack of sovereignty had limited autonomy critical to creating conditions to improve people’s lives, and had resulted in institutionalized poverty and marginalization.

 

BENJAMIN RAMOS ROSADO, The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, said he was working to secure the freedom of political prisoners and of Puerto Rico.  “We are second-class citizens at the mercy of the United States” without representation in Congress.  American citizenship had been imposed on them.  They had been forcibly relocated to lands and were victims of exploitation.  Oscar López Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio had dared to confront United States colonialism.  Mr. López Rivera had served 33 years in prison, where he had been tortured.  He had refused clemency because two co-defendants had not been given the same offer.  The United States Parole Commission had denied his petition, despite that a range of politicians, actors and artists continued to support his release.  Mr. Claudio also had been subjected to unjust treatment, having developed skin cancer and been denied adequate treatment.  His health was precarious.  He urged immediate action to end colonialism in Puerto Rico and for the release of political prisoners.

 

EVELYN M. ROMÁN MONTALVO, Coalici ón Puertorriqueña contra la Pena de Muerte, called for an end to the death penalty, saying her people were opposed to its imposition.  Puerto Rico had abolished that practice in 1929 and had written a provision to that effect into its Constitution in 1952.  Yet, the United States had established the death penalty as a punishment.  Fortunately, juries had refused to apply it in cases tried in the Federal Court of the United States for the District of Puerto Rico.  Those cases were carried out in a language that was different from Puerto Ricans’ vernacular language, despite that only 10 per cent of the population could understand and communicate in English.  She called for including in the resolution language outlining Puerto Rico’s unique situation, adopting a resolution requiring the United States to declare a moratorium on death sentence cases, and referring the case of Puerto Rico to the General Assembly.

 

ANA CRISTINA CABÁN, Unión Nacional de Estudiantes, said 39 per cent of university students in Puerto Rico had to abandon their studies.  Of those who did graduate university, 30,000 left the country annually.  The university system must tackle that difficult reality of “brain drain”.  It was also the duty of young people to defend their homeland.  Education was facing the threat of increasing costs.  As a colony, Puerto Rico could not create a self-sufficient economic model.  A national state of Borinquen should obtain a provisional or permanent seat in the United Nations.

 

MARIE CRUZ SOTO, New York Solidarity with Vieques, said that the militarized colonialism imposed on that island had created poverty, illness and marginalization.  The current situation was robbing the community of a viable future.  Her organization was sponsoring a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asking the United States Navy to take responsibility for the toxic effect it had had on the island and its population.

 

CARLALYNE YAREY MELÉNDEZ, Oficina de Asuntos Comunitarios e Ind ígenas, said his peoples had passed “from hand-to-hand”, from the Spanish to the United States.  The Treaty of Paris had been signed, but his people had not been consulted, making that document null and void.  The indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico did not recognize the United States as the owner of his nation.  The United States had established an illegal colonial Government.  The Boricua always had fought for their freedom, having defended their lands against the Spanish for centuries.  They also had fought for the freedom of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Cuba.  He requested help so his people could be free.  The United States had not requested its independence from England; nor should the Boricua request their independence.  They should declare it.  He called for full sovereignty for the nation state of Borinquen.

 

ORLANDO J. ORTIZ AVILÉS, Juventud Boricua, said his organization supported the national state of Borinquen, which was working to restore its legitimate national council.  “Our nation never gave away any sovereign power to any empire,” he said, noting the group was building community structures that met Borinquen needs.  He urged recognition of the sovereign state of Borinquen as a United Nations member, noting that Boricua youth had been forced to emigrate due to unemployment at home, a direct result from the Free Association Agreement.  Young people also had resorted to crime to survive, which had led to blood-letting.  Condemning North American imperialism, he compared the United States-Puerto Rico relationship to Stockholm syndrome.  He pressed the Special Committee to urge the unconditional release of Oscar López Rivera.

 

JAN SUSLER, National Lawyers Guild International Committee, said Oscar López Rivera had served an unprecedented 33 years in United States prisons for his commitment to the independence and self-determination of Puerto Rico.  Mr. López Rivera had achieved the unenviable distinction of being the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico’s independence movement.  “The calendar is not my friend,” Mr. López Rivera had confided in her.  Consonant with the demand of people, it was a propitious moment for this august body to once again urge the President of the United States to release Mr. López Rivera.

 

JOHN ROSS SERRANO SANABRIA, College Republican Federation of Puerto Rico, said that Puerto Rico was not a country, but a United States territory inhabited by American citizens with a particular culture just like other states had their own culture or traditions.  The residents of the island were predominantly of Latin ancestry and spoke mostly Spanish, just like many other Americans in other States.  The Head of State was the President of the United States and Head of Government in the island was the Governor, just like the other 50 states.  He asked the Special Committee to include Puerto Rico in the list of non-self-governing territories and make an effort to bring the United States Congress to admit Puerto Rico as the fifty-first state.

 

JOSE R. ORTIZ VELEZ, Frente Autonomista, said it had been a “useless pilgrimage” as Puerto Ricans continued to be under American occupation and its economy was collapsing.  The economy was not benefiting from federal programmes.  As Puerto Rico had national identity as a Latin and Caribbean country, it was time to reject the United States’ position.  The United States should respond to Puerto Rico’s request as colonial status was no longer tolerable.  He also called for international support for the unconditional and immediate release of Oscar López.

 

EDWIN PAGAN, Generación 51, said he was an American citizen and supported Puerto Rico’s decolonization through statehood.  It was a colony for more than 400 years under Spain and for more than 100 years under the United States.  Passive rights were not rights.  In the November 2012 vote, Puerto Ricans voted “no” to colonialism and “yes” to statehood.  He wondered why Puerto Rico remained on the agenda of the Special Committee.  A report should be produced on the November 2012 plebiscite.

 

ANNABEL GUILLÉN, Igualdad, said Puerto Ricans had been United States citizens since 1917, yet they did not enjoy many constitutional rights.  Their lack of representation and political power had made them second-class citizens, a status prohibited under the United States Constitution.  In the 2012 plebiscite, 61 per cent of voters had favoured statehood.  Recently, the United States President had signed a budget law allocating $2.5 million for a process on the island to define Puerto Rico’s non-territorial options.  She pressed the Special Committee to address the question of Puerto Rico.  Independence had not received great support, she said, noting that the Independence Party had not qualified for the 2012 elections.  She urged the Special Committee to recognize the results of the 2012 referendum and agree that Puerto Rico was a colony.

 

GABRIEL ROMÁN, Citizens Movement for Statehood, said his group represented 80,000 in the south of the island who had voted in favour of statehood.  Since 1967, Puerto Ricans had carried out electoral processes and, in 1997, had expressed their wish to be a part of the United States.  “This is still the case today,” he said, noting that the 2012 plebiscite had seen more than 61 per cent of Puerto Ricans vote in favour of statehood.  The self-determination process must be allowed to continue.  The Puerto Rican government had hindered the democratic expression of its people, having taken unofficial steps to block discussions and ignore peoples’ claims.  “Our desires cannot be undermined by a minority group that does not accept the self-determination of our people,” he asserted.

 

MARTIN KOPPEL, Socialist Workers Party, said the people of Puerto Rico and working-class people in the United States had a common enemy — the United States Government and the propertied ruling class it defended.  “We share a common struggle:  to get those exploiters off our backs,” he said.  Cuba’s socialist revolution was living proof that when workers and farmers took political power out of the hands of the capitalist minority, they could win genuine independence and begin to reorganize society in the interests of the majority.

 

ISMAEL MULLER VAZQUEZ, Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, said he spoke categorically against colonialism by the United States.  Although Puerto Rico did not produce drugs and weapons, those were on the land, creating problems.  Independence fighters were treated like “terrorists” and there had been fresh arrests of those.  All political rights should be handed over to Puerto Ricans after 115 years of exploitation by the Untied States.  The question of Puerto Rico should be discussed in the General Assembly.

 

MARIA DE LOURDES GUZMAN, Movimiento Union Soberanista de Puerto Rico, denounced the situation that had confronted her country for more than 100 years.  The United States, she said, had placed Puerto Rico at its service.  The colony had been baptized a “free associated state”, ensuring it would be excluded from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Forty-six per cent of the island’s population lived under the poverty line and young Boricuas were being seduced by claims of a better future if they joined United States military.  Further, the island of Vieques had been bombarded for 60 years, which had led to a catastrophic health situation, as the United States Navy had refused to clear the toxic material.  That country had implemented inefficient laws in Puerto Rico, she said, adding that the interstate clause of the United States’ Constitution was another aggression.  That nation did not respect Puerto Ricans’ self-determination right.

 

JOSE ENRIQUE MELENDEZ ORTIZ, League of United Latin American Citizens, noting that his group was the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States, said calls for independence were an undue interference in the affairs of Puerto Rico.  Puerto Ricans did not want independence; they were American citizens.  In the absence of a clear self-determination process for political status, their desire had always been respected.  The island was united with the United States and Puerto Ricans had made their decision in the referendum.  Independence was not the only way to achieve full self-government; integration under equal conditions and free-association were other options.  Sixty-one per cent of voters had voted for statehood.  The island’s political status did not pertain to relations between Latin American countries and the United States.

 

Statements

 

The Special Committee suspended hearings of petitioners and moved to statements from Committee members regarding the draft resolution presented by the representative of Cuba.

 

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed support for the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination and independence on the basis of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).  That colonial question had been under consideration by the Special Committee for more than 39 years, with 32 resolutions or decisions already adopted by the Committee.  While welcoming the consensus adoption of those texts over the last decade, the Movement called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence and return the occupied land and installations of Vieques Island and at the Roosevelt Road Naval Station to the Puerto Rican people.

 

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the death penalty should not apply to Puerto Rican freedom fighters imprisoned in the United States.  Efforts should continue until Puerto Rico became a member of CELAC and the United Nations.  Thirty-two resolutions and decisions had been adopted, with many by consensus.   He expressed solidarity within the Latin and Caribbean region, which should become one free of colonialism, as it was now the third international decade of eradicating colonialism.  With 25 July marking the 116th anniversary of intervention by the United States, it was time to put an end to rooting natural resources and other exploitations.

 

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), noting that five decades had passed since the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV), said colonialism had prevented Puerto Rico from building a free society.  At the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Havana, Cuba, Venezuela had promoted Puerto Rico’s participation as an observer.  The outcome document from that summit emphasized that Puerto Ricans had their own national identity, and that the General Assembly should examine all aspects of the question of Puerto Rico. Latin America and the Caribbean should be free from colonialism.  Venezuela supported the release of Oscar López Rivera, who had been held for 33 years, and was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution.

 

IHAB HAMED (Syria) said 25 July would mark the anniversary of United States intervention in Puerto Rico.  Numerous resolutions had reaffirmed Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination, in line with resolution 1514 (XV). The United States must accelerate the process whereby Puerto Ricans could exercise their inalienable right to independence and self-determination.  Those who had spoken out had faced violence, intimidation and arrest.  Recalling that Syria had always supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the matter, he urged the United States to abide by today’s resolution, create conditions conducive to the exercise of Puerto Ricans’ inalienable rights, and release the detainees for defending those rights.

 

LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia) stressed the importance of strengthening multilateralism in the context of Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination and independence.  He also noted a series of resolutions of the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) on implementing the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples as well as the outcome of the second Summit of CELAC Heads of State.  He urged the United States Government to assume its responsibility to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence and return the occupied land and facilities to the Puerto Rican people.   

 

JOSÉ EDUARDO PROAÑO (Ecuador) said the second Summit by Heads of CELAC in Havana had recognized the Latin and Caribbean nature of Puerto Rico and reaffirmed its commitment to become a region without any colony.  The United States Government should comply with General Assembly resolution 1514 and accelerate a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.  He also called for the immediate release of political prisoners, including Oscar López Rivera.

 

CAROL VIVIANA ARCE ECHEVERRÍA (Costa Rica), speaking for CELAC, said the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico was highlighted in January at the organization’s summit in Havana.  The Community was committed to working in the context of international law, particularly resolution 1514 (XV), to free the region from colonialism.

 

Action on Draft Resolution

 

The Special Committee then approved by consensus the resolution entitled “Decision of the Special Committee of 17 June 2013 concerning Puerto Rico”.

 

The representative of Cuba, speaking after action in a general statement, said the links between Cuba and Puerto Rico were rooted in the work of the nations’ most prominent leaders.  The shared history had emerged from the Taíno people, whose culture had been extinguished by imperialist interventions, such as slavery.  The liberator of Cuba had more than 12,000 Puerto Ricans fighting with him for Cuban independence.  In 1948, Fidel Castro had organized the First Latin American Congress of Students to discuss issues, including Puerto Rico’s independence.  He cited other examples of shared efforts for independence, calling the outcome of the CELAC summit a “milestone” in Cuba’s relationship with Puerto Rico in the fight for independence and self-determination.

 

Petitioners

 

NATASHA LYCIA ORA BANNAN, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said the United States Navy had occupied the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra and used and rented out the sites for bombing and target practice.  Viequenses faced a disproportionately higher rate of terminal serious health conditions such as cancer, hypertension, asthma, kidney failure and skin conditions.  The environment, including land, sea and ground water, had been seriously contaminated by toxins and heavy metals.  Not much had changed over the last 11 years since the United States officially closed the military base, stopped bombing and began a “clean-up” process.  But the clean-up fell far short of human rights standards and did not include actual decontamination.    

 

JOSE ERIEL MUNIZ GOMEZ, High School Republicans of Puerto Rico, supported Puerto Rico’s standing as the fifty-first state of the United States.  In a non-binding 2012 vote, a second question gave three options — statehood, independence or free association with the United States.  The result was overwhelming support for statehood.  The General Assembly should submit a resolution requesting the United States to hold a referendum on Puerto Rico’s admission as a union state.

 

ANA M. LOPEZ, New York Coordinator to Free Oscar L ópez Rivera, said United States communities must play a role in the release of political prisoners.  The Puerto Rican diaspora was an “internal colony” within the United States.  The jailing of Oscar López Rivera had sent the message that there was a slave-master relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico.  “This must end now,” she said.  Reading out a message from Mr. López Rivera, she said the main problem was the colonial status of the homeland.  If Puerto Ricans could unite around forcing the United States Navy out of Vieques, they could unite around resolving the problems of the persistent destructive system.  They had the will to create an independent, self-sufficient Puerto Rican nation, despite claims that the island did not have the necessary resources.

 

JULIO R. ROLON, Puerto Rico No Se Vende, reiterated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination, recalling that the island was not considered a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  The United Nations repeatedly had been asked to change its policy towards Puerto Rico, and the General Assembly had been requested to examine the situation in all its aspects.  He urged the United States to start a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to self-determination and independence, in line with resolution 1514 (XV). He also called for the creation of a mechanism allowing Puerto Ricans to participate fully in a decolonization process, including through a constitutional assembly.

 

JOSE M. UMPIERRE MELLADO, Accion Soberanista, urged Special Committee members to visit his “country” and see how the United States administered it.  Upon arriving, they would be told what they could or could not do while there.  All television and radio waves were controlled by the federal Government.  They may enjoy pure air, but that was not quite pure due to the environmental pollution under the United States administration.  They may see beautiful Caribbean shores but they must be careful of explosives left there during military exercises of the United States Navy and its allies.  When they visit a national park, they would be told that it was the only tropical forest in the United States.

 

MIGUEL REYES WALKER, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico-Movimiento Libertador-Junta Nacional, described how the Puerto Rican economy was faltering.  Taxes were increasing while medical services were decreasing.  Workers had no collective bargaining power.  Multinational corporations offered only part-time jobs with few or no benefits.  The best students and educators left Puerto Rico in search of opportunities for professional growth.  The United States Congress should recognize those situations.  The General Assembly should discuss the question of Puerto Rico in its plenary.

 

JOSE GIOVANNI OJEDA RODRIGUEZ, Renacer Ideologico Estadista, said annexation offered the best growth and electoral representation for Puerto Rico.  In the 2012 referendum, Puerto Ricans had agreed that they no longer wanted to live under a commonwealth arrangement.  Since 2009, the Special Committee had introduced draft resolutions to stimulate discussion in the General Assembly, but results had yet to materialize.  Rescinding resolution 748 (1953) would be a difficult task, making it imperative to maximize efforts.  If the focus of subsequent resolutions differed, his group would be able to use it as a tool to persuade the White House to change its approach.  He requested broader discussion on the language to be included in future resolutions, and particularly, that paragraphs 6, 8 and 9 of resolution 1514 (XV) be cited.  Texts also should refer to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the context of Vieques clean-up.

 

RICARDO ROSELLO NEVARES, Boricua Ahora Es, said Puerto Ricans favoured statehood, and urged steps to support their will, as expressed at the polls.  His group had filed a complaint to the Civil Rights Commission of Puerto Rico, which named the United States President, among others, as having hindered the desired actions of Puerto Ricans.  His group had been endorsed by the Vietnam Veterans of America; it had held a congress on Puerto Rican decolonization and worked in various ways to eliminate the colonial system that controlled Puerto Ricans’ destiny.  A multifaceted strategy was needed to create a cohesive agenda.  With that, he said Puerto Rico should be the next host of a regional seminar, and both the 1953 report by the Committee that preceded the Special Committee and General Assembly resolution 748 (1953) should be rescinded.

 

CRUZ MARIA NAZARIO, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Puerto Rico, said cancer occurrences in Vieques were linked to military exercises of the United States and its allies.  Food, land and air were contaminated with toxins.  Mortality rates were higher there with people more likely to die from heart disease and illness related to hypertension.  That was a crime against humanity.  In the 2012 vote, she voted “no” to colonialism and did not support statehood because she wanted Puerto Rico to be a free independent country.

 

HECTOR BERMUDEZ ZENON, Grupo por la Igualdad y la Justicia de Puerto Rico, accused Spain and the United States of colonizing Puerto Rico, which constituted a crime.  The United States claimed that the question of Puerto Rico was an internal matter, but it did not tell the truth.  An allotment of five minute for each petitioner to speak in this forum once a year was not enough to overcome years of ill-treatment of the Puerto Rican people.  The United States should spearhead a process of decolonization around the world.

 

RICHARD LÓPEZ RODRIGUEZ, Frente Patriotico Arecibeño, denounced “experiments” carried out by the HAARP [High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program] project.  Arecibo was also called the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center.  One patent for electromagnetic radiation weapons, based on technologies developed by Nicolai Tesla, threatened the survival of Puerto Ricans living in Arecibo as they had been exposed to radiation.  The Department of Defense aimed to depopulate Arecibo.  Also, an incinerator owned by Energy Answers, which contracted with the Department of Defense, burned garbage, 30 per cent of which was car tire rubber and other processed products that adversely impacted people in Arecibo.

 

GERARDO LUGO SEGARRA, Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, said his party had fought for Puerto Ricans’ freedom from torture and for a more just society.  It did not participate in the election of colonial officials who claimed to serve Puerto Ricans yet held the flag of the United States in their hand.  Indeed, the “Yankee colony” was in full economic crisis.  “This is a country where the Governor fulfils the needs of the occupying Power,” he said.  Nothing belonged to Puerto Ricans, except the debt.

Puerto Rico Unions Threaten Strike Against Austerity Budget

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Public union workers from a handful of unions across Puerto Rico have spent the last week blocking ports, shutting down thoroughfares and slowing public transit. But that may be just the beginning: In the coming week, workers are expected to vote on whether to hold a general strike across the country.

The unions are standing against the austerity budget proposed this spring by members of the U.S. commonwealth’s General Assembly to deal with the country’s recent bond downgrade and looming payment of its debts to bondholders. The Fiscal Sustainability Act of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as the budget is called, would allow the government to bring in “emergency powers” to deal with the crisis. Under this authority, it could renegotiate all public employees’ contracts, liquidate unused sick days, and freeze salaries—thereby gutting workers’ collective bargaining powers. Privatizing the commonwealth’s electrical company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, has also been placed on the table as an option for stanching the crisis; the emergency measures would also include closing 100 public schools.

The budget must be passed on June 30 to coincide with the beginning of the 2015 fiscal year on July 1. And as that deadline nears, unions across the island have been escalating their protests. On June 5, the union of transportation employees prevented ferries around the country from functioning. That same day, workers from the bus and port authorities, as well as the state insurance funds, blocked the entrance to the central government building in San Juan. Amid the disruptions, the labor secretary said at a council meeting he would not speculate as to whether the actions already constituted a general strike, or were just a series of protests.

Nora Vargas-Acosta, a labor lawyer in Puerto Rico who represents several of the unions who would be affected by the bill, including healthcare workers and correctional facility workers, says that although the fiscal crisis is certainly real, its effects shouldn’t be wholly shouldered by workers. “The way the government wants to address the economic crisis is falling on the right of workers,” she says. “From my perspective, it is right that the unions feel that it should not be this way. There are some costs but the government does not want them to bear equally on all.”

In February, several credit rating services, including Moody’s Investor Service and S&P, brought Puerto Rico’s bond rate down to “junk” status. But the alarm bells set off by the rating are only the latest signs of trouble for the island, considering the strong hold financial markets from the United States have on Puerto Rico. The country is in its eighth year of recession, with more than $70 billion in public debt held largely by U.S.-based investors.

Blame for much of this crisis has been laid at the doorstep of the United States, which has held Puerto Rico as a territory for 115 years. In 2006, the U.S. Congress did away with the island’s main economic development strategy—federal tax credits for companies who made profits in Puerto Rico—which caused many Puerto Rico-based companies to flee to other tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands. In recent years, the island has again begun wooing the super-rich from the United States, with a handful of millionaires already taking up its offer of low taxes and warm weather.

On the ground, the nation of 3.7 million people has a 15.4 percent unemployment rate; government pensions are underfunded by $37 billion. These problems have prompted an exodus of people to the United States, with more than 35,000 people leaving between April 2010 and July 2011 alone, several years into Puerto Rico’s recession. The economy is dominated by manufacturing, finance and public sector jobs, but the government is the island’s largest employer—meaning that its workers are the most liable to suffer from public cutbacks. Puerto Rico’s constitution goes so far as to legally stipulate bonds will be paid off even before government paychecks.

And the Fiscal Sustainability law isn’t the first time the government has put its employees on the line to deal with its financial problems. In October 2009, then-Gov. Luis Fortuño’s firing of 17,000 workers, ostensibly to avoid an immediate government shutdown caused by the fiscal crisis, had already set off protests from public workers as well as political parties and community organizations, all of which culminated in a general strike. Despite the unrest, Public Law 7, passed in March 2010, gave Fortuño’s conservative administration the leeway to suspend union contracts and dismiss even more public sector workers without due process rights laid out in their contracts.

Despite the similarities of Law 7 to the fiscal sustainability law, current governor Alejandro García Padilla has taken steps to publicly separate the two measures. Padilla, whose party criticized Law 7 when it was initially introduced and has said its effects have been negative, defended his party’s fiscal sustainability law by saying it won’t create layoffs in the public workforce. Still, unions regard the budget as yet another way to leach civil employees of their rights.

Vargas-Acosta doesn’t deny that there are troubles within the labor organizations themselves, such as corruption and unions who work closely with the administration. But, she says, unions have helped provide public workers with a good standard of living, one she would like to see shared by all workers in the country. “The things that you are hearing from the government is ‘look how many rights they have, look how well they are doing,’” she says, referring to the government’s implication that the public sector is the place to trim the fat. “This means unions are in fact doing their jobs and doing it well.”

As rumors of a nationwide public workers’ strike swirl, Vargas-Acosta says unions have put forward their own suggestions for how to fix the crisis. Among the proposals are suggestions that state agencies should minimize their number of outside contractors, which they heavily rely on or, as the head of the electrical workers’ union has suggested, place a moratorium on debt payments. With debt payments expected to total $18.35 billion through 2018, according to estimates from Moody’s Investors Service, and the aforementioned constitutional clause promising the payment of debt services, its unclear how likely these plans are to gain traction.

“The unions have for years been telling the government, let’s address this, and offering an alternative plan,” she said. “But workers’ attempts to have fruitful dialogue with the administration are not having any results.”

From: http://www.popularresistance.org/puerto-rico-unions-threaten-strike-against-austerity-budget/

 

The Battle for Puerto Rico’s Labor Movement

[this is an older piece, but gives some good recent history on PR labor movement – Luchar]

The Battle for Puerto Rico’s Labor Movement

New Vieques independence movement seeks to cut ties with … Puerto Rico

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Nearly 200 Vieques residents have signed a petition to ask Congress to allow the offshore island town to secede from Puerto Rico over what they see as the commonwealth government indifference to the municipality’s problems.

The “Viequenses Seeking Independence” movement does not seek independence from the United States.

However, it does argue that the offshore town is a type of double colony under the yoke of San Juan and Washington and aims to get more support from the federal government to spur development and self-sufficiency, movement spokespeople said in a media interview.

Among the most pressing concerns is spotty Puerto Rico-government run ferry service that islanders say is wreaking havoc in the lives of Vieques and Culebra residents and dealing a big blow to business owners on the two tourism-dependent island towns.

Mechanical failures, including a damaged cargo ferry, are driving the service lapses that include daily cancellations of scheduled ferry runs and hours-long delays. The situation has affected the shipping of vital supplies, including food and gasoline, and is also causing problems with everyone from senior citizens needing to get to medical appointments in Fajardo to university and high school students who travel to Puerto Rico to study, residents and businessowners told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

Vieques residents also cite the lack of healthcare infrastructure and a spate of violence tied to drug trafficking as pressing problems.

Community leader Ismael Guadalupe says he’s not on board with the independence drive, arguing it would open the door for the Navy to resume using Vieques as a firing range. The U.S. military conducted live-fire training on the island town for 60 years before leaving more than a decade ago amid large-scale protests in Puerto Rico.

Vieques has a population of only 10,000 and just two notable towns — Isabel Segunda on the northern side of the island and the far smaller Esperanza on the south. Vieques along with neighboring Culebra comprise the so-called Spanish Virgin Islands.

The island town is 21 miles long and 3 miles wide, covering 52 square miles of area about 30 miles off the coast of Fajardo. Vieques derives its name from the Taíno Indian word for small island (biekes).

Long a favorite of locals, Vieques has become a hot international tourism destination since the Navy abandoned its firing range and returned the military lands to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department in 2003.

There is now air service by a half-dozen airlines making the 20-minute flight from both the international airport in San Juan and the regional airport in Isla Grande.

The inexpensive ferry remains the main link between Vieques and Fajardo, on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast, with several roundtrips daily. The problem of spotty service — including delays, cancellations and broken down boats — resurfaced earlier this year after the Puerto Rico government’s Maritime Transportation Authority (MTA) retook full control of all ferry service between Fajardo and the offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques after letting the contract of private provider Puerto Rico Fast Ferries expire in a move it said would save the cash-strapped public agency about $900,000 a month.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last year reactivated the position of special commissioner for the economic development of the offshore island towns of Vieques and Culebra.

The commissioner’s tasks include advising La Fortaleza on policies based on a 2004 development plan for the two island towns and coordinating and integrating inter-agency efforts for Vieques and Culebra and serve as a liaison between the two communities and the executive branch.

With the military’s departure, the decades-long practice bombing of Vieques stopped, and the island has become one of the more exclusive tourist destinations in the Caribbean.

But the cleanup of the bombing range on an island the Navy once called its “crown jewel” of live-fire training is expected to take another decade, and the mayor of Vieques noted the island of roughly 10,000 people still has no hospital to treat illnesses ranging from cancer to asthma that local residents blame on military activity.

Vieques is battling an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent and depends on a crippled ferry system that serves as the primary link to the main island of Puerto Rico.

George Withers, a senior fellow with the non-governmental Washington Office on Latin America, recently published a report calling on the U.S. to respond more aggressively to the cleanup and other problems in Vieques. He said the lack of care for ongoing health problems remain big concerns.

The island was once a cause celebre, with people such as singer Ricky Martin, actor Edward James Olmos and politician Jesse Jackson joining hundreds of other protesters to demand that the Navy leave Vieques after an errant 500-pound bomb killed a security guard in April 1999.

But after the Navy left on May 1, 2003, interest in helping boost the island’s economy waned, with residents blaming both the U.S. and local government.

Of the 23,000 acres that the Navy began to use for target practice in the early 1940s, 4,000 acres have been awarded to Vieques municipality, 3,100 acres went to the U.S. Department of the Interior and about 800 acres to the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust.

The Navy has so far cleaned roughly 2,600 acres, with the operation expected to run through at least 2025 in one of the Navy’s most extensive rehabilitation efforts, budgeted at some $350 million.

In March 2013, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a long-awaited report stating it found no proof that residents had been sickened by substances left behind by bombs and other munitions, identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as TNT, napalm, depleted uranium, mercury and lead. The report was rejected by thousands of Vieques residents, many of whom filed a lawsuit, later dismissed, that accused the U.S. government of causing illnesses by leaving harmful residues on the land.

Tourism remains the island’s main economic engine.

Vieques has always been a day trip and weekend destination for Puerto Ricans and intrepid tourists willing to rough it. But the departure of the Navy — which closed down a training base that took up two-thirds of the island’s acreage — led to a land rush as visitors bought vacation homes and set up bed-and-breakfast lodgings.

The land rush settled down due to tight local building codes and the onset of recession. But the opening of the 150-room W resort, in what had been a Wyndham hotel, doubled the number of rooms available in the island and has been attracting a more upscale crowd.

Vieques still retains some of its frontier vibe. Wild horses roam and signs warn visitors away from beaches still being cleared of unexploded Navy ordnance. Some beaches still carry the code names assigned by the Navy during exercises, such as Punta Arenas (Green Beach), Playa Caracas (Red Beach) and Playa la Chiva (Blue Beach).

While the roads to Blue and Red Beach have been paved recently, many fine secluded beaches are accessible via dirt roads that require all-terrain vehicles. Beyond the beaches, the island has low-key culture and nature attractions including a Spanish colonial fort in the capital of Isabel Segunda and the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay — considered one of the brightest in the world.

The Associated Press contributed extensive background material to this report.

Taken from: http://www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com/news/new-vieques-independence-movement-seeks-to-cut-ties-with-puerto-rico-97169.html