Throughout its 100-year history, our Party has stood in solidarity with the democratic forces fighting for social and economic justice and self-determination in Puerto Rico. As the Party of the US working class, we have a special comradeship and historically binding ties to our brothers and sisters on the Island. Our solidarity work in exposing and defeating the policies of plunder and profit that the US colonialist system has imposed on Puerto Rico for over 100 years is intrinsically linked to our fight to win strategic victories against the extreme, corporate right wing sector of our country. This is the same sector whose tentacles, through economic and political power, continue to hold the Puerto Rican people in a colonial stranglehold.
Although the colonialist relationship, based on political control and economic oppression, has not fundamentally changed since the time the island was militarily invaded in 1920, the resistance and fightback against colonialism is increasingly taking a new revolutionary upswing in Puerto Rico and progressive forces are defining a new anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist consciousness. At the same time, repression against this movement is protracted and heightened. For us, it’s a time that urgently calls for renewed actions to highlight and strengthen the links of our struggles here with the struggles of the Puerto Rican people.
In recent decades and especially during the almost two years since Hurricane Maria, social, economic and environmental devastation and political repression has intensified. The thousands of deaths that occurred during and in the aftermath of the hurricane and caused by GOP and Trump Administration genocidal policies of holding back critical healthcare, electricity, clean water and basic food and supplies, have never been acknowledged. Instead, the Trump Administration has pressed for more drastic reductions in federal aid for basic food and services and Congress has failed to hold hearings to investigate this crisis. At the same time, corporate lobbyists contrive privatization schemes. Draconian austerity measures imposed by the US Fiscal Control Board are aimed at subverting the labor unions, privatizing the nation’s resources and services and suppressing the democratic rights movements in order to secure profits for corporations, banks and hedge fund investors and speculators.
Yet, building on a long history of political resistance against colonialism, the present-day people’s movements, led largely by labor, with teachers in the forefront, youth and university students and women, has given rise to a bold, militant and newly energized resistance. For example, a one-day general strike called by the teachers federation on May Day of 2018 turned out thousands of union workers, retirees, teachers, parents and children to the streets to demand an end to school closures, privatization, pension and wage cuts, social services and healthcare. Eight thousand teachers and 98 percent of students were not in attendance that day. Heightened political repression was evidenced as police blocked and ambushed the May Day demonstrators as they peacefully marched through the financial district of San Juan. Police in SWAT team gear used tear gas and flash grenades in a brutal attack to disperse the marchers. University students were followed for miles and arrested in their homes and people were beaten with batons. The mobilization’s leadership correctly and precisely assessed the march, the strike and the wider democratic demands as part of the class struggle in Puerto Rico.
Correspondingly, it’s important that solidarity with the island’s environmental justice and recovery efforts be framed within the wider struggle for climate and environmental justice here in the US and globally. The fight for decolonization is winnable, but it entails going up against the most extreme corporate forces in the fossil fuel, agricultural, and mining industries that benefit from the political and economic colonialist relationship. The colonial system is a system of extraction and environmental destruction. For example, AES Corp, a US fossil fuels transnational, has dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash in twelve Puerto Rican municipalities. Over a period of nine years, 2.4 million tons have been dumped near aquifers. To counter demands of Puerto Rican civic and environmental action groups, the EPA claims that the federal government lacks the funds to monitor AES practices with regard to evidence of health dangers. Yet, the zone where AES operates has the highest cancer rates in Puerto RIco. Past studies warned of detrimental effects due to AES ventures and windblown contaminants.
In rural communities, it’s Puerto Rican women who have taken the lead to build an agricultural infrastructure based on ecologically sound and independent local farming for sustainable food production. At a University of Puerto Rico agro-ecological student-run farm, the young farmers are almost all women. Volunteer brigades, some international and also including comrades, are sent all over the island, providing materials, muscle and spiritual uplift to the forces for agricultural sovereignty.
Most recently, Puerto Rico has passed its own Green New Deal, a bill that would radically transform the island’s economy with renewable energy. The Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act would set the island on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Puerto Rico would become a leader in clean energy technology and establish a domestically created infrastructure maintained and owned by small businesses. The fossil fuel industry vehemently opposes and lobbies to privatize the utility.
The Puerto Rican anti-colonialist and progressive movement, in unity with growing sectors of the populace, is calling for cancellation of the odious public debt, repeal of the Jones Act, dismantling of the US imposed Fiscal Control Board – all tools of the colonialist control that fosters the pillage of the nation’s wealth and resources.
These popular demands, if won, would open the way toward decolonization while simultaneously dealing a decisive blow to corporate right wing forces in the US. This pivotal juncture in the struggle for self-determination against colonial capitalism represents a call to action for us as we continue to forge bonds of solidarity with a clearly defined working class in Puerto Rico against our common enemies.