New Scandal, Old Colonialism

Photo by Arelis R. Hernández

Solidarity with the ongoing popular protests in Puerto Rico and the diaspora

The first of a series of earthquakes hit southwest Puerto Rico on December 28, 2019. The same day, Governor Wanda Vásquez of the New Progressive Party (PNP) submitted her documents for the coming 2020 elections, aiming to keep the position she inherited after Ricky Rosselló’s forced resignation last August 2 and Pedro Pierluisi’s removal by the island’s Supreme Court on August 7. Of all the challenges facing the Puerto Rican nation in the 21st century, these two crises—natural and political—pose the greatest apparent danger but have also opened a new stage of popular struggle. One extends back to Hurricane María and continues with the recent earthquakes; the other to the Telegram chat which triggered the colossal movement to oust Rosselló. Now, the colonial rulers are trying to reign in the people and reimpose the old norms: the resolution of problems through the contained democracy of the ballot box, and not the democracy of the streets.

However, Vásquez’s aspirations crashed sharply against reality last weekend with the Ponce warehouse scandal, involving the discovery by residents of hoarded and undistributed relief supplies. Again, there is the shuffling of top officials: the dismissals of the heads of the emergency relief, family, and housing agencies. Again, far removed from the people, there are court intrigues: Rosselló’s chosen successor Pierluisi, who will challenge Vásquez in the upcoming PNP primaries, attacked the dismissals as “political discrimination.” In response, Vásquez claimed, “Politics is totally outside of my considerations and actions as governor.” (!)

The politicians’ quarrels are not limited to the island. Days before the outbreak of the latest scandal, Andrew Cuomo visited Puerto Rico, promised aid from New York State, and criticized the federal response to the crisis. Meanwhile, President Trump imposed new restrictions on disaster relief, over the protests of the congressional Democrats. All this is taking place as the US bourgeoisie once again is booting up the electoral machinery on course to November. In the colony, too, the party framework is in full motion: the two-party system of alternating PNP and Popular Democratic Party (PPD) governments, as well as the challenges presented by the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and, more recently, the Citizens’ Victory Movement (MVC). Also on the table is the possibility of another status plebiscite, formulated as: “Statehood, yes or no.” The plebiscite was proposed by the PNP on January 21, quickly rejected by PPD members, and is currently under evaluation by the PIP.

Meanwhile, thousands of people still sleep under tents following the earthquakes, and—most importantly—as of January 23, the people of Puerto Rico have once again taken to the streets in San Juan and in the diaspora. They have courageously taken the road of popular struggle, the only one which opens the way to the future. The May Day Student Organization expresses its full solidarity with their efforts and wishes to reiterate, as we wrote last year, that the only basis for unity between the people of the US and the people of Puerto Rico is the recognition of Puerto Rican nationhood and the end of 121 years of US colonialism. This boils down to one thing: independence.



May Day Student Organization

January 2020