Do not permit Puerto Rico to ‘be forgot’ in 2021

This isn’t the primary time I’ve expressed these needs and made resolutions. The next story is from Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, posted just a few months after hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—2017 review and resolution for 2018 and beyond

In 2017 many U.S. residents in Puerto Rico shall be ringing within the new yr of 2018 by candlelight. Not as a result of it’s romantic or non secular—it’s as a result of they nonetheless have no energy. Dwelling sin luz (with out mild) just isn’t some poetic reference—it’s a nightly actuality. A nightmare from which the daybreak of the next day brings no surcease. Residents within the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) aren’t almost again to regular,  are going through a significant lack of vacationer income and a budget crisis.

I’m not within the behavior of creating New 12 months’s resolutions, nonetheless this yr I’ll make an exception. I resolve to proceed shouting, writing, tweeting, calling elected officers and doing something in my energy to maintain the untenable, unacceptable, disgraceful state of affairs going through our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in entrance of politicians and most of the people who’ve allowed the unimaginable to change into regular. Since when is it regular for a travesty like this to change into merely a matter of ticking off the variety of days that pile up, and transferring on in our minds to one thing of higher urgency?

In September of 2018, one yr after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, I attempted once more and wrote: “Make a promise to support Puerto Rico”

The place is the nationwide outrage?

Greater than a yr has handed since back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, killing hundreds of individuals—not on direct affect, however within the days and months of neglect from their authorities and their “president,” aka Donald Trump, that adopted.  

The scenario stays grave for the survivors. Opposite to a lot of the printed mainstream media reportage, not everybody has energy, greater than 60,000 persons are residing beneath leaky tarps, faculties have closed, there’s a psychological well being disaster, and we’re in the midst of hurricane season 2018. New storms type every week and individuals who reside within the Caribbean reside with the every day anxiousness of climate watching.

On Dec. 29 of 2019 my plea was repeated.

My New Year’s promise to Puerto Rico. Mi promesa de Año Nuevo a Puerto Rico

You don’t need to be Puerto Rican to provide a rattling about what is occurring, proper earlier than our eyes, to Puerto Rico.

I’m not Puerto Rican. Certain, I’ve pores and skin within the sport since my husband, some cousins, my godkids and their youngsters, and plenty of of my former comrades from the Young Lords Party are Boricuas.

In September of 2017, after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands as properly, together with household and mates I watched a nightmare unfolding. It quickly turned patently clear that the U.S. authorities, beneath the failed management of Donald Trump, was botching aid and restoration efforts, and few mainland mainstream reporters have been bringing their A-game into the mess. I used to be struck by the truth that a majority of oldsters right here appeared to know subsequent to nothing concerning the island and its fractured historical past as a U.S. colony. The New York Occasions reported, “Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Know Puerto Ricans Are Fellow Citizens.”

I made a promesa to my santos that I’d do what I may to amplify the skimpy mainstream media protection of the restoration efforts on the island—in addition to overlaying the Puerto Rican neighborhood right here on the mainland.

Similar story for the three-year anniversary of Maria.


The ability grid on the island is on no account secure, and one merely has to check the online outage map to get a way of the frequency of lack of service. What could be very troubling is the sale of the state utility. Ed Morales, writer, journalist, and professor, not too long ago wrote this illuminating piece for The Nation

Privatizing Puerto Rico

On July 26, Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, the top of UTIÉR (Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego), Puerto Rico’s electrical and irrigation staff’ union, tweeted from one of many island’s energy technology stations. From Costa Sur Unit 5, close to the southern coast, he posted a video of an open porthole that allowed folks to look into a large boiler fabricated from decaying metallic and see streaking blue and orange flames, the stuff of electrical energy technology. “That is the plant that failed on January seventh, 2020,” he wrote—referring to the day a 6.four earthquake hit southwestern Puerto Rico—“the one José Ortiz stated would take a yr to restore.” Ever for the reason that quake, Ortiz, then the CEO of the government-owned Puerto Rico Electrical Energy Authority (PREPA), had been saying the company didn’t have the capability to get the broken plant again up and operating till then. (Ortiz stepped down from PREPA in August.) […]

Since 2016, when, in response to the island’s spiraling debt, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Administration, and Financial Stability Act (PROMESA) was signed into regulation, lots of its main choices have been within the arms of the Monetary Oversight and Administration Board (FOMB), which many name merely “the Junta.” The FOMB is tasked with restructuring the territory’s $72 billion debt; its important device, a brutal austerity regime. Tons of of colleges have closed, authorities staff’ pensions are threatened with cuts, municipalities are being defunded, and PREPA is slated to be absolutely privatized as a part of the answer to its $9 billion debt.

The destiny of PREPA, then, is deeply certain up within the destiny of Puerto Rico. The territory is in an exceedingly fragile state after a succession of political and pure disasters lately: devastating hurricanes in 2017; a political scandal that led to huge avenue protests and the resignation of the governor, Ricardo Rosselló, and a number of other of his colleagues final yr; and the huge earthquake and a collection of aftershocks this January that knocked out the Costa Sur energy plant and induced widespread injury. Figueroa Jaramillo’s confrontational stance in opposition to the CEO of PREPA is due to this fact on the heart of a battle that reveals the methods multinational firms, aided by the federal authorities, are utilizing the precarious scenario to extract revenue via privatization. This privatization scheme, urged on by the unelected FOMB, is dashing up a harmful deterioration of democracy on the island at a time when it may possibly little stand one more disaster.

This month can be the anniversary of these earthquakes in 2020, which began in December 2019 and have continued.

A reminder.


These earthquakes that toppled buildings and weakened main constructions and amenities on the island severely broken the Arecibo Observatory, which is now gone. This was one of many few current well-covered tales that briefly put Puerto Rico again into the headlines.

One other merchandise that turned mainland newsworthy has been the continuing problem of standing—largely seen from the attitude of how Puerto Rican voters right here on the mainland have affected votes for or in opposition to Democrats and Republicans.

The Puerto Rican vote is now being checked out in Georgia.


The opposite important space the place there’s protection of Puerto Rico, to the exclusion of virtually all else, is the statehood problem. Hundreds of individuals, lots of whom aren’t Puerto Rican or who’re mainland politicians and don’t reside on the island, proceed to “weigh in” with their ideas and opinions about Puerto Rican standing: statehood, independence, upkeep of the established order, or different options. The voices of those that resist colonialism or who don’t have mainland media clout get the least quantity of consideration.

An instance is Roberto A. Fernández, who has written items excoriating each statehooders and those that embrace the present farce of “commonwealth.” His evaluation is rooted within the historical past of the US’ acquisition of Puerto Rico.


Dissecting Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth Status

In late 1898, the Treaty of Paris established the circumstances beneath which Spain ceded to the US its management over the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, whereas relinquishing sovereignty over Cuba. By then, American political actors and judges have been conversant with hierarchical notions rooted on the concept of “race,” utilizing it to clarify and justify the domination of “whites” over the continent and its “non-white” inhabitants. 

In 1901, the primary instances testing the validity of the colonial coverage over the brand new possessions reached the U.S. Supreme Courtroom. In offering authorized benediction to colonial domination over peoples and locations, the Courtroom relied on notions of racial hierarchy. 

By then, the racialist discourse that the justices articulated had been in circulation for a number of many years. In essence, it stated that there’s an innate capability for institution-building and self-governance, which is denied to all races however the Anglo-Saxon inventory. Provided that Puerto Ricans have been an “alien race,” i.e., not Anglo-Saxon, they have been to be ruled for their very own sake, and be given restricted measures of self-government, once in a while and in small doses.

I see a lot of uninformed tweets just like the one under, which assumes that gaining two senators from a future Puerto Rican state would imply two Democrats in these seats.


This opinion doesn’t embody the fact that Jennifer González, the not too long ago reelected non-voting Rep for Puerto Rico, is a Republican.


One of many issues that makes me loopy is that tons of people that chime in with opinions about Puerto Rico have zero clue who the gamers are on the island, they don’t know the names of the political events, they aren’t conscious of recent developments, they usually make assumptions {that a} celebration with the phrase “progressive” in its identify makes it so. 

I haven’t hung out in Puerto Rico in years, and the Puerto Rican “left” I interacted with many years in the past has modified. There’s a new solid of characters and I’ve tried to do my homework, but it surely’s exhausting, and made extra so by having to do a lot of my studying in Spanish. (I’m not fluent in something however Spanglish.)

I did discover a translated article not too long ago that helped. 

Luis Fernando Coss, a professor at the Faculty of Communication on the College of Puerto Rico, wrote: Puerto Rico 2021: A Shift in Perspective, A New Opposition

…it’s vital to replicate on the numerous progress of the Left in Puerto Rico within the 2020 election cycle. I suggest an optimistic outlook primarily based on the election outcomes, not mere fantasy. I’m a type of individuals who feels the progress has been undervalued. Maybe it’s because the outcomes have been considerably surprising for a lot of. In any case, the large questions are: How can we view the brand new panorama on the Left? How will the opposition to the colonial and neoliberal regime modify going ahead?

I’m now referring particularly to these forces that place themselves in opposition to neoliberalism and colonialism in Puerto Rico—with out dropping sight of some vital variations amongst them. In different phrases, I’m not speaking a couple of single neighborhood, however reasonably a pluralized “neighborhood” belonging to a really numerous motion that would determine as leftist within the sense described above. To be clear, I assume that the votes for independence and socialist candidates, for the MVC [Citizens’ Victory Movement] and the PIP, and for impartial candidate [José Antonio “Chaco”] Vargas Vigot are like-minded votes largely oriented towards some sort of transformation of the nation and social progress —whether or not through a gradual or decolonizing route— and never a mere “act of protest.”

What confuses issues extra is the difficulty of simply who can converse for Puerto Rico.



The very small variety of congressional statehood supporters consists of each Democrats and Republicans.



Hardly ever do any of the mainland “opinionators” and pundits know a lot, if something, concerning the lengthy and painful colonial historical past of Puerto Rico, nor can any of them identify the management of the varied political events on the island, nor are they discussing present points with the fiscal management board, the island’s power grid, the medical infrastructure, the lack of a hospital on Vieques, the privatization of the Vieques/Culebra ferry, the impact of the Jones Act, food insecurity, FEMA failures, and femicide. I may proceed with my checklist, however frankly it’s miserable and I’m positive a number of folks will present up at present in feedback stating why Puerto Rico ought to change into a state (or not) whereas COVID-19 continues to kill off extra Puerto Ricans, there are nonetheless residents whose energy goes out every day, and there are far too many people with no roofs. 

The current “vote” for statehood in Puerto Rico generated loads of social media warmth, which is ongoing. One of many extra attention-grabbing analyses I’ve learn up to now was this op-ed from Efraín Vázquez-Vera, a full professor on the College of Puerto Rico and the previous assistant secretary of state of Puerto Rico’s State Division. He factors out:

…the turnout on this plebiscite was solely 50% of registered voters, which implies that the 52% who voted sure to statehood symbolize solely 26% of all registered voters in Puerto Rico.

Inside the sure and no votes, 38,000 ballots left the query clean. These non-voted ballots may very well be seen as an expression of people that didn’t want to validate one other rip-off plebiscite with their vote.

He concluded:

How lengthy can the US keep away from its accountability to sort out the difficulty of Puerto Rico’s future political standing? The territorial standing of Puerto Rico is unsustainable, being the principle motive for the current Puerto Rican disaster. If one factor may be stated to make sure is that Puerto Rico’s disaster will go from dangerous to worse through the subsequent 4 years. A governor with two-thirds of the folks in opposition to him with an opposing legislature means a paralyzed Puerto Rican authorities for the years to come back, when motion is most wanted.

This panorama means that, in the end, the US shall be confronted with the outcomes of one other plebiscite, in all probability with a real majority of Puerto Ricans who favor statehood for the fallacious causes: due to their poverty, their hopelessness and their desperation.

If the 2020 Puerto Rican Standing plebiscite was a victory for the Puerto Rican pro-statehood motion remains to be an open query, however actually Puerto Rico and the US misplaced.

There are folks publishing vital tales about Puerto Rico and urgent points outdoors of the status-wrangling. Nonetheless, their voices want amplification. Observe them and share what you possibly can.

What I’m making an attempt to say at present is what Erica González Martínez, the director of #Power4PuertoRico,  lays out on this tweet.

I strive exhausting to be the kind of ally outlined in inexperienced. I’m just one voice—a small, non-Puerto Rican voice. Nonetheless, I imagine one voice can attain a number of others, who in flip can educate another person.

I stand up each morning between four and 5 AM and make an try to assemble information from or concerning the island. I submit what I’ve discovered and shared each on Twitter and right here on Day by day Kos each morning at round 7:30 AM within the Abbreviated Pundit Roundup (APR) and associated pundit tales written by ChitownKev. I submit the same roundup twice every week in Black Kos (which is at present on vacation hiatus till Jan. 8).

I observe not solely mainstream media retailers and island papers that submit in Spanish, but in addition key journalism teams on the island just like the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI in Spanish).


I ask once more for you the reader to search out a while in your day, or week, or month, to coach your self, just a bit, about what’s going on in our colony. (Sure, Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony.) Take a look at present information and knowledge, but in addition attempt to be taught just a little historical past. Share a few of these tales to your social networks.

Be part of me in making a decision to pay extra consideration to Puerto Rico in 2021. 

You don’t need to be Puerto Rican to provide a rattling.

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