Anticolonial Uprising in Puerto Rico

By Sabine Lebrón

January 21, 2020

SAN JUAN: On Saturday, 19 January, the discovery in Ponce of a stash of squandered emergency relief supplies – sorely needed in the wake of the devastating earthquakes which rocked the island early last week – set off a series of mass demonstrations against the comprador government, culminating today in a call for the resignation of so-called governor Wanda Vázquez Garced.

Vázquez Garced’s own governorship began with the resignation of her predecessor, Ricardo Rosselló; like ‘Ricky,’ Vázquez Garced is a member of the Partido Nuevo Progresista, a right wing, pro-statehood formation loosely aligned with the Republican Party on the mainland.

The PNP (and their sham counterpart, the so-called Partido Popular Democrático) are the brutal enforcers of austerity, comprador representatives of the political interests of the American imperialists. Their neoliberal line is lockstep with efforts by the imperialist government to continue the neocolonial exploitation of Puerto Rico – a process which began with the illegal occupation of the island in 1898 and which has been more recently edified with the passage of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) by the imperialists in 2016, ostensibly to respond to the debt crisis facing the island. That the crisis is itself the artificial product of predatory lending and the plantation-style management of the island’s economy (through Operation Bootstrap, a series of projects aiming at proletarianizing Puerto Rico which encouraged corporations to develop production facilities on the island and take advantage of exploitatively cheap labor-power while avoiding import tariffs) has been conveniently ignored.

The passage of PROMESA allowed then-president Obama to appoint seven members to the newly established Financial Oversight Board (“La Junta de Control Fiscal,” popularly known on the island as la Junta), with the elected governor of Puerto Rico sitting as an eighth member without voting rights. Headquartered on Wall Street, the heart of the capitalist world-system, la Junta is entirely unaccountable to needs of the Puerto Rican masses – instead, it serves to ensure the timely payment of Puerto Rico’s debts to the American capitalist vultures, holding extensive power over the management of the island’s economy to do so.

While the ongoing wave of popular revolt – which was set off early last July by the leak of homophobic and misogynistic messages sent by former governor Rosselló to a private Telegram group chat – appears on the surface to target only Rosselló and Vázquez Garced themselves, it must be understood as part of a broader uprising against the neocolonial domination of Puerto Rico by la Junta and the American imperialists. The gross mismanagement of emergency relief in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters has only sharpened the contradiction between the interests of the revolutionary masses of Puerto Rico and those of the American imperialists and their puppet government.

The people have spoken: US out of Puerto Rico!

Make no mistake: the devastation of our infrastructure and our cities is irrelevant to the imperialists as long as they can continue to coerce our youth to die in their oil wars, cut wages far below the legal minimum on the mainland, and perpetuate the colonial plunder of our people indefinitely!

As the island begins its slow recovery from the destruction of the earthquakes, we must remember that Puerto Rico is not only suffering from a natural disaster; it is suffering under the colonial yoke. Without political and economic independence from the imperialists – without national liberation and new democratic revolution – the tragedies of climate change and natural disaster will continue to mount. We see the tinder for that struggle beginning to gather once more; it will take only a single spark to light it.

Solidarity with the revolutionary masses of Puerto Rico! It is right to rebel against the reactionaries!

Smash the comprador ‘commonwealth’ government! Build proletarian democracy!

¡Wanda renuncia, y llévate la junta!

¡Vive Puerto Rico libre y socialista!