U.S. Out of Puerto Rico Now!
Puerto Ricans Organize Mass Protests Against Layoffs and Attacks on the Nation
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuna, under dictate from the U.S., recently announced plans to layoff another 17,000 public workers. This includes laying off more than 7,000 teachers and cutting many education programs, decimating public education. These layoffs come on top of layoffs of 10,000 in June, in a situation where unemployment is already at about 16 percent. If the Governor's dictate goes through, it is anticipated that at least 30,000 public workers will lose their jobs as the government moves to shut down about 40 public agencies, using privatization and consolidation. These include the public utilities, like electricity, water and sewer, etc. This broad attack is part of an on-going assault on public enterprises and Puerto Rico as a nation, in the name of overcoming“budget deficits.” Public enterprises are being privatized, union contracts are being rendered null and void, social services cut and workers and the public as a whole brutally attacked.
The people of Puerto Rico are once again rising in resistance and plan a national strike October 15. Just days after the Governor’s September 25 announcement, thousands protested, including many teachers and other public workers, including lawyers and cultural workers from public agencies and youth. Protests since have included numerous mass actions by the unions, women and youth and denunciations of these efforts to eliminate public enterprises. Instead Puerto Ricans are demanding Hands Off Public Enterprises and public control of them.
Students at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras carried out a 24-hour strike against the layoffs, joining with university workers and professors in a protest march. A demonstration October 3 took place at a performance of the Symphonic Orchestra of Puerto Rico. Hundreds of students and workers marched against the layoffs and also over reports that Governor Fortuño had ordered that hundreds of tickets be bought up and given to his closest aides and supporters in a bid to prevent protesters from joining the audience as he attended the performance. The protest took place and Fortuño canceled plans to attend.
Voice of Revolution salutes the resistance and demands that the U.S. immediately cancel Puerto Rico’s debt, estimated to be about $47 billion, and end theft of Puerto Rican wealth and resources. This is the minimum first installment needed in payment for more than 100 years of colonial occupation. We say, End U.S. Colonialism Now! U.S. Out of Puerto Rico Now!
As a result of Puerto Rico’s colonial status and ruthless U.S. exploitation of the workers, about 45 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line — a level far higher than that in the U.S. As well, the median income amounts to barely half that of the U.S. population as a whole and remains lower than the poorest U.S. state, Mississippi. Pharmaceutical monopolies like Pfizer and Merck, along with petrochemical and electronic monopolies, reap massive profits as a result of the lower wages and numerous tax incentives handed over to the rich.
Given Puerto Rico’s colonial status, the island’s budget is determined by the U.S. federal government, which also controls commerce, trade, military and more. The FBI, for example, regularly intervenes, including kidnapping and assassinating Puerto Rican independence activists, and the Governor has no authority to stop them. While Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they have no representation in Congress, cannot vote for President, but do serve in the military. The head of state for Puerto Rico is the U.S. President, and the Governor is the head of the colonial government in Puerto Rico, much like Governor's that headed the 13 colonies in the U.S. under the rule of British kings. Puerto Rico's Governor, as a colonial governor, similarly often faces demands from the federal government without federal resources to pay for them. As well, as a colonial Governor, he does not even have the same standing as Governor’s of U.S. states, in terms of control over resources and taxes. Clearly, it is the U.S. dictating the Governor's actions and colonialism that is the fundamental problem. Defense of the public enterprises and refusal to submit to the Governor are serving the fight against colonialism and efforts by Puerto Ricans to build their nation according to their needs and desires.
Much like countries worldwide and many U.S. states, where mass layoffs and attacks on the public are also taking place, "budget deficits" are being utilized to impose these attacks. This is an effort to divert from the fact that for Puerto Rico and other U.S. states, massive war funding and continual debt payments play a major role in the so-called "deficits." There is hundreds of billions in public dollars available — but they are going for war and paying the rich.
For Puerto Rico, in March, under dictate from Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury, Fortuño imposed a “Special Law Declaring a State of Fiscal Emergency,” or Public Law 7. It unilaterally suspended for two years all collective bargaining rights and social protections for public employees, while mapping out plans for $2 billion in cuts to the island’s budget, most involving social services.
Now again, Fortuño traveled to Wall Street at the end of September, where these U.S. loansharks have forced Puerto Rico’s credit ranking to just one notch above “junk” bonds, making borrowing far more expensive. Wall Street is dictating how much can be borrowed, at what rate, and under what conditions, such as Fortuño’s agreement to carry out more layoffs and cuts. The original debt is being paid over and over again, while dictate over the economy also increases. As well, Fortuna met with President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers and other Treasury Department officials to seek more federal funds. Like California and other states which have also sought federal funds, so far the answer is no. At the same time, Congress is preparing to pass yet tens of billions more in war funding.
The problem in Puerto Rico is not a lack of money. Great wealth is produced. But Puerto Ricans do not control it, do not control the public enterprises, do not control the budget. War funding and payments to the rich must be ended. It is U.S. colonialism that is the problem and a crime that needs to be ended now.
Salute Resistance in Puerto Rico!
Demonstrate in Support of
Thursday, October 15, 2009, 5pm
Puerto Rico is experiencing very difficult times. Puerto Ricans of the mainland cannot remain idle while Governor Luis Fortuño’s administration moves forward with its widespread lay-off policy. This constitutes social and economic barbarism that will only serve to worsen the crisis in which the country is submerged. It will promote privatization of basic infrastructure services to thousands of Puerto Ricans, mostly the poor. Almost 20,000 civil servants already have or will be laid-off their jobs, putting at risk thousands of families affected directly and indirectly by this attack.
The colonial administrations, statehood and commonwealth supporters equally, are guilty of today’s suffocating of the working class using high taxes, the imposition of a sales tax and the partial or complete privatization of our national patrimonies. We cannot forget Pedro Rosselló’s administration, which privatized a great part of our country, including fifty one percent of Puerto Rico’s Telephone Company and almost all health service providers throughout the Island. The Calderón Administration tried to privatize the Water and Sewer Authority, resources of the nation that we managed to rescue. Previous administrations’ efforts to completely sell Puerto Rico’s Telephone Company were finally achieved by the Acevedo Vilá administration. The Mexican monopoly America Movil bought it. This unleashed a teacher’s strike and more attempts by the government to curtail workers rights and some of the fighting unions on the island. That same administration, along with the Legislative Assembly, imposed the IVU tax, raising taxes on the working class while exempting special interests from paying taxes.
Without doubt now is the time to strengthen a united front of all the progressive and social sectors in struggle to confront the colonial and capitalist crossroads facing Puerto Rico. On the island, on October 15, diverse unions, community and student organizations will unite to hold a national strike. People in New York City cannot lie back without demanding justice. We call on the different organizations, individuals, and activists in the United States to join in the fight and support Puerto Rico’s poor, working, and middle classes demanding their social and economic rights. Join the protest October 15 in front of the Offices of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFFA) in New York City.
Join Us, the Times Demand It! Stop Privatization! End Colonialism!
Thursday, October 15, 2009, 5pm
In the face of massive attacks by the Governor of Puerto Rico and the political party in power (Partido Nuevo Progresista, PNP) on the people of Puerto Rico, which includes:
1. Massive firing of public employees (approximately 10,000 in the first wave and close to 17,000 announced September 25 for the second wave)
2. Massive repression by police of protestors
3. Calling out the National Guard
4. Massive privatization of public jobs and institutions
5. Giving public funds to private developers and foreign capitalists
6. Destruction of public housing
7. Eviction of people from their homes and destruction of whole neighborhoods such as Cano Martin Pena, Gladiolas, Villa del Sol to name only a few
8. Destruction of public schools, arts and culture
10. Environmental degradation (Vieques)
We call on people and social movements in the United States to support the present struggle of the people of Puerto Rico for self-determination and justice.
We call on people and social movements in the U.S. to get informed on the events in Puerto Rico
We call on people and social movements in the U.S. to re-build the solidarity movement with the struggle of Puerto Rico!
We call on people and social movements in the U.S. to support the National Strike called for October 15, 2009!
Join PRISM and support a sovereign Puerto Rico and justice for the people of Puerto Rico and put an end to the colonial status of Puerto Rico.
On September 25, Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, announced planned layoffs of 17,000 public workers. Broad protests met the announcement. When Fortuna recently visited the eastern port city of Fajard, to announce a new boat contract that supposedly would provide jobs, Roberto Garcia, an unemployed worker shouted “Hypocrite! How dare you talk about jobs when you are taking work away from everybody! He threw a rotten egg at the Governor.
An activist in support of Puerto Rico wrote "The situation in Puerto Rico is abominable for the half of the population which is forced to live in poverty and unable to make living wages while the thieves in [government] get richer by the day.
"A well deserved kiss of respect goes to my brother Roberto Garcia who was brave enough to throw an egg at the face of the [Governor] who is running Puerto Rico into the toilet. Roberto Garcia is standing up to tyranny and injustice like a real man. I send him my blessings and a kiss of respect. Roberto Garcia’s name must be added to the list of the Puerto Rican patriots who have — and are — resisting the terror and occupation of Puerto Rico by the U.S.
"In the hands of a patriot an egg or shoe are just as good as a conventional weapon. If every Puerto Rican had thrown an egg at Governor Fortuño the situation in Puerto Rico would no longer be what it is. I ask every Puerto Rican to grab an egg and a shoe and do his/her patriotic duty and let Fortuño shake like a rat in fear of a humble egg and old shoes. Viva Roberto Garcia! Viva Puerto Rico Libre! It Is Time To Make The Thieves Accountable To The People!"
Puerto Rican Freedom Album Now Available
The Puerto Rican Freedom Album is now available. The Freedom Album is a musical CD/compilation dedicated to the Puerto Rican political prisoners and their families and sales are serving to provide funds for their welfare. The album features 31 artists from Puerto Rico to the states, and is available for purchase or download at www.prfreedomproject.org.
Artists appearing on the album are: The Welfare Poets with Alkebulan (Hip Hop - NYC), Roy Brown (Folk – Puerto Rico), Siete Nueve (Hip Hop – Puerto Rico), Aurora y Zon Del Barrio with Yomo Toro y Sammy Ayala (Bomba, Plena and Salsa - NYC), Division X (Hip Hop - NYC), Intifada (Hip Hop – Puerto Rico), Ilu Aye (Orisha/Afro-Caribbean tradition -NYC), X-Vandals (Hip Hop - NYC), Rebel Diaz with Divino of The D.E.Y. (Hip Hop Chicago/NYC), Alma Moyo (Bomba y Plena – NYC), Ricanstruction (Hardcore/Punk/Hip Hop - NYC), Quique Cruz (Hip Hop - California), Foundation Movement (Boston – Hip Hop), Lourdez Perez (Decima – Puerto Rico), Homeboy Sandman (Hip Hop – NYC), Babalu Machete (Hip Hop – Puerto Rico), Segunda Quimbamba (Bomba – NJ), El David (Hip Hop - NJ), Dr. Loco (Hip Hop NYC), Fernando Ferrer (Salsa/Acoustic), Maria-Isa (Hip Hop -Minnesota/Twin Cities), Velcro y Ikol Santiago (Hip Hop – Puerto Rico), Ray Concepcion y Cafe Con Leche (Salsa – the Bronx), M-Team (Hip Hop – Pittsburgh/ Brooklyn), Bryan Vargas Y Ya Esta (Latin, Nu-Jazz and Afro-beat – NYC), La Bruja (Hip Hop/Reggaeton NYC), MC Natra Y Lady M (Hip Hop – Vieques), Carlos Jimenez (Latin Jazz – NYC), F.A.L.L.E.N. A.N.G.E.L.Z. (Hip Hop – NY and Florida), Nino Blanco (Hip Hop – NYC) and Angel Rodriguez (Guaguanco - NYC).
Machetero Showing in NYC
The film Machetero is back in New York City following its Irish premiere and award in September. It will be playing as a part of the New York International Independent Film And Video Festival Thursday, October 29, 8pm, City Cinemas Village East.
In the tradition of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle Of Algiers, Melvin Van Peebles Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song and Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Vagabond’s Machetero is a meditation on violence as a means toward liberation. Post 9/11 definitions, ideas and notions of terrorism are challenged in this highly controversial and experimental film. Machetero is an allegorical narrative that follows French journalist Jean Dumont, played by Isaach de Bankolé (The Keeper, Ghost Dog, Manderlay, Casino Royale, The Limits Of Control), to a New York prison where he interviews Pedro Taino, a so-called "Puerto Rican Terrorist" played by Not4Prophet (lead singer of the Puerto Punk band RICANSTRUCTION).
Pedro is a self-described Machetero fighting to free Puerto Rico from the yoke of United States colonialism. He is obsessed with freedom, freedom for his country, his people and for himself. Jean questions Pedro about his decisions to use violence as a means to achieve that freedom. Jean utilizes a global perspective in questioning Pedro, referencing examples of achieving his goals through more peaceful means. However Jean soon finds that Pedro is well versed in liberation struggles from around the world and their debate over the use of violence as a catalyst for change escalates.
As Jean and Pedro speak, another story unfolds. A barrio youth played by Kelvin Fernandez (in his first starring role) grows up in the streets doing what he has to do to survive. The youth crosses paths with Pedro who sees the potential in him. Pedro tries to provide the means for him to grow into the next generation of Machetero by giving him a pamphlet he wrote called the Anti-Manifesto. The youth reads the Anti-Manifesto and it reawakens a revolutionary spirit instilled in him from childhood by a mentor in Puerto Rico (played by former Puerto Rican Prisoner of War Dylcia Pagan, who served 20 years in US prisons). The youth develops into a young rebel driven by the cause to liberate his people. As Jean and Pedro’s debate rages on, the violence that begins in the exploitation and subjugation of imperialism becomes complete in the life of another youth turned revolutionary.
The structure of Machetero is built around songs from “Liberation Day,” a concept album centered on the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico, written and preformed by RICANSTRUCTION. The songs in the film took on the quality of a narrative voice becoming a modern day Greek chorus. RICANSTRUCTION also provides a completely improvised original score that moves from hardcore be-bop punk to layered haunting and abstract Afro-Rican rhythms.
(Vagabond Beaumont is the writer, producer and director of Machetero.)