Forging an Agenda of Struggle within the Puerto Rican Diaspora

Oct 14, 2015
9:33 AM
(Ricardo Mangual/Flickr)

(Ricardo Mangual/Flickr)


What is wrong with the Puerto Ricans that they do not rebel?
— Ramón Emeterio Betances

In July of this year a group of Puerto Rican activists in New York put forth the position that the present collapse of the economic structure of the Puerto Rican colony, at a time when the financial institutions and Wall Street wolves continue their attacks on working people, created here in New York an opportunity to develop a movement to denounce the attacks of finance capital against our people. In addition to stating that the debt was unpayable we said that because this is the Mecca of Wall Street and finance capital and the symbol of world capitalism, there is much we can do here to forge public opinion and denounce what is happening in Puerto Rico. We also put forth that the present is a unique historical moment and offers the opportunity to educate, denounce, and advance the cause of independence and social justice for Puerto Rico. This position is not new and has been a part of the history of struggle of Puerto Ricans here since the US invaded the island.

Our historical memory enables us to understand that the great gains made by our communities are a product of decades of militant social struggles led at the street level by community organizations and by political organizations with a pro-independence platform.

Now in October a group of Puerto Ricans, that seeks to speak for and develop a working agenda on behalf of the Puerto Rican diaspora (the exile) in the United States, have chosen to hold a meeting in Orlando, Florida. They base this choice on the fact that an enormous amount of compatriots have been moving there within the past 10 years.

They say that with this migration the power of Puerto Ricans has been transferred to that region of the United States. Certainly we must define the power that is being referred to and the accuracy, physically speaking of that statement when the diaspora, which has been here for years and now consists of more than 4 million Puerto Ricans, is concentrated in different states and regions of the United States.

We can consider ourselves exiles in the sense that we have been pushed out of our country because the colonial regime cannot guarantee food, security, education and health care for its citizens. Thus today’s massive migration, like the ones in the past, serve as an escape valve to try to contain a developing social eruption on the island.

It suddenly seems as if the primary purpose of this meeting is to develop a new political-electoral muscle in Florida by registering new voters. This is why Congressmen Gutierrez, Velázquez, Serrano and a large group of elected Puerto Rican officials from different states are heading to this meeting. Another group in attendance at this meeting will consist of dozens of executive directors of community organizations and unions with ties to the Democratic Party. Also present at this meeting will be various elected officials and representatives of the colonial government, especially members of the Federal affairs office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This is how the organizers of this event believe the diaspora should be mobilized and according to them, where the Puerto Rican power lies.

We certainly don’t doubt that it is their genuine desire to help Puerto Rico that leads them in that direction. They have expressed that they believe that they will persuade the empire and the bondholders to change their policy towards Puerto Rico and they will use that platform to tell the government of the US that it is their responsibility to rescue Puerto Rico from its fiscal crisis.

The case of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera will also be part of this agenda under the topic of Human Rights and on this point we agree. The freedom of Oscar is a priority for all of our people.

And though they recognize that there is a colonial problem, they have stated that for the sake of a greater consensus Puerto Rico’s status will not be a point of discussion. In other words the island’s status is not an issue.

We believe it would be unfair to deny that these Puerto Rican brothers and sisters have the right to meet and develop a working agenda, but to go on from there to say that this is the agenda for the Puerto Rican “diaspora” is not entirely correct.

In New York and in other cities, platforms are being developed for militant actions and challenges to the vulture funds, the Federal government and the colonial government of Puerto Rico. These actions are becoming a collective effort that begin to unite forces and can develop into an organizational model of social struggle with the banner of national liberation and social justice for our people.

There is a growing movement which puts forth the right of Puerto Ricans in exile to struggle for a better Puerto Rico, free of colonial subordination and able to fully exercise its sovereign rights.

Call to Action on Puerto Rico/Llamado a la Acción por Puerto Rico along with the different groups that have been organizing along similar lines declares:

1. That Puerto Rico’s debt is unpayable.

2. That it is the foreign corporations operating in our country who owe Puerto Rico because in the last 20 years alone they have reaped over 600 billion dollars in tax-free profits.

3. That the social cost of increasing the sales tax, reducing the work day, education and health services, of eliminating labor rights gained and the dismantling of the retirement system among
other recessionary measures, are a detriment to the quality of life of the people of Puerto Rico and to the strategic development of the country’s economy. Thus, these measures are not beneficial to our country.

4. That as a colony of the United States, Puerto Rico’s position of political subordination cuts across the problem and independence would break the stalemate and create the possibilities of a solution benefiting our country.

5. That Anne O. Krueger’s report should not be a guideline for the solution as Ms. Krueger comes from the world financial institutions which generated the neo liberal policies from which several of our Latin American countries have now freed themselves. These countries have developed independent economic policies which place social wellbeing over the greedy profits of corporate and finance capital.

6. That the root of the problem is the colonial status of Puerto Rico. In this regard the UN resolution on Puerto Rico adopted on June 22, 2015 states that “the condition of political subordination prevents Puerto Rico from taking sovereign decisions to attend to its serious economic and social problems including unemployment, marginalization and poverty.” Understanding that this is a unique and historical moment which offers us the opportunity to educate, denounce, and advance the cause of independence and social justice for Puerto Rico, we will strive to further develop the work that we have begun and to broaden and give continuity to a plan of struggle that will lead us in that direction.

The moment of supreme definition has arrived, either Yankee or Puerto Rican.
— Pedro Albizu Campos

Let us move forward!

Call to Action on Puerto Rico/Llamado a la Acción por Puerto Rico

For more information contact:

Lourdes García: (917) 650-5189
David Galarza: (917) 573-92
Manuel E. Melendez: (347) 993-0429