Tagged: Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans clash over LGBT Equality Bills: The face of hate and the face of love

Two bills have been proposed in Puerto Rico that would increase the rights of the LGBT community on the island.  One bill would prohibit discrimination for motives related to sexual orientation in areas as employment, rental leases, and other such public or private instances.  The second bill would clarify that Puerto Rico’s Domestic Violence Law, no matter the sexual orientation, protects all citizens. The island’s religious groups took the streets to protest these urgently needed measures on the island. In Puerto Rico, violent and non-violent homophobia is rampant. Between 2009 and 2011 alone, more than two-dozen people have been murdered in anti-gay hate crimes.

In a frightening and saddening demonstration of the conservative and patriarchal values that still run deep in Puerto Rican culture, around 200,000 people manifested in the island’s Capitol building on February 18th, with hateful picket signs invoking Christ and misleadingly calling for the defense of family.

Among the demonstrations in favor of the equality bills, one was held days before, on Saint Valentine’s Day. This demonstration took place in the University of Puerto Rico, and its conclusion was a mass kissing. The manifestation clearly illustrated that we are dealing with a clash between hate and love.

The now in power Popular Democratic Party, though ideologically absent minded, is trying to distinguish itself from the previous New Progressive Party government, which was explicitly reactionary in all fronts, including gender issues. Hopefully this will enable the approval of the proposed bills.

Faces of Hate:

Faces of hate at the Capitol Building

Faces of Love at the University of Puerto Rico:

Faces of Love at the University of Puerto Rico

 

Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Avelino Gonzalez Claudio returns home

“Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Avelino Gonzalez Claudio will be returning to Puerto Rico this Thursday December 6th, 2012 to complete the remainder for his sentence, afterwards, he will be completing his probation time.

Avelino will be arriving at   2pm to Luis Munoz Marin Airport and will be welcomed back to his homeland by a group of people.”

In August of 1985, Avelino González Claudio was accused of participating in the planning and authorisation of an operation to secure $7,117,000 from a Wells Fargo armored truck in Hartford, Connecticut on September 12, 1983, along with other Puerto Ricans and two North Americans. The operation was carried out by a clandestine organization fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico, the PRTP-Macheteros. Avelino was not arrested at the time. However, more than 20 years later, he was arrested in Manatí­, Puerto Rico, on February 7, 2008.

Avelino was born in the town of Vega Baja on October 8, 1942. As a student at the University of Puerto Rico, he became a member and then vice-president of the Pro-Independence University Federation (Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia-FUPI). In the mid-1960’s, he married and moved to New York City, earning his living on Wall Street, and working with the Puerto Rican community, joining and then leading the Vito Marcantonio Mission of the Movemiento Pro-Independencia (MPI) in New York. He and his family of four children returned to Puerto Rico, where he worked in the independence movement, including administering the political journal Pensamiento Crí­tico (Critical Thought).

When the arrests of 1985 took place, and Avelino was not arrested, he assumed the identity of José Ortega, and, while the FBI pursued him, he lived a quiet life, working as a computer teacher to support his family and contributing constructively to his nation, seeking to improve the services provided by the Department of Education.

The charges against those arrested in 1985 had various results: Carlos Ayes, Filiberto Ojeda, Juan Segarra, Norman Ramirez and Roberto Maldonado went to trial in 1989; Ivonne Meléndez Carrión also went to trial—some were acquitted, others convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from one year to 55 years; while Orlando González, Hilton Fernández Diamante, Jorge A. Farinacci, Isaac Camacho, Elí­as Castro and Angel Días Ruiz negotiated a plea agreement in 1992. They were sentenced to terms of five years in prison. Two others have never been arrested: Avelino’s brother Norberto and Victor Gerena, and are being sought by the FBI.

Avelino is currently being held in Somers, the state of Connecticut’s supermax prison, far from his family and his nation, where he is locked down 23 hours a day, with no access to family visits or phone calls, in conditions which are calculated not only to interfere with his ability to prepare a defense, but which are tantamount to torture. He was sentenced to 7 years.

Info from : http://www.prolibertadweb.com

Status Determinism in the Puerto Rican Left:

The major obstacle for broad front politics 

Wikipedia defines determinism as a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. It aptly describes the philosophy behind a great part of the Puerto Rican Left. You might be thinking I’m going to talk about the economic determinism of orthodox Marxists, or something of the sort. Actually, it’s the other way around. It is in the nationalist Left where we are finding determinism; specifically, status determinism! Let me explain.

As Puerto Rico is still a United States territory in a classical colonial fashion, most of the island’s politics revolve around the future status of the island. On the table, Puerto Ricans have four options: become the 51st state of the union and fully annex to the United States, sign a free association compact with the United States as a sovereign nation, declare complete independence from the United States, or stay in the current colonial territorial status. The Left has historically supported independence, although now a large number of activists have supported the free association compact with the United States as an acceptable alternative also.

Now, the largest progressive organization on the island is the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which recognizes itself as a social-democratic party. In practice however, they seem to base most of their campaigning on nationalist sentiments instead of the issues one would usually associate with social democrats. Their nationalism has also become an obstacle for the development of broad front politics as they are developing in other parts of the world. The main issue is that broad front politics, for these leaders, only make sense in independent nations. They argue that while Puerto Rico is a US colony, any type of broad front progressive politics is reformist, if not colonialist and pro-status quo.

In other words, a front that encompasses unions, marginalized communities, LGBT activists, along with socialists and independence activists, for the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), should only be constructed if and only if it is also advocating in favor of total independence (and by the way, if it openly calls for voting for them would be nice too). 95% of Puerto Ricans openly declare themselves against independence. So, basically, according to the Independence Party, we can’t seem to do any kind of electoral politics with 95% of the working class and other oppressed sectors simply because they are still not in favor of independence. Sure! We will piquet with them! Sure! We will send press releases supporting them! And sure, if you vote for us, we will write progressive bills in favor of them (although they will not be passed anyway). But!! Any kind of broad electoral politics that unites these sectors under a front that is not openly for independence (and voting for us), that’s unacceptable! That’s basically the idea.

Obviously independence is indispensable for any kind of radical transformation in Puerto Rico. Therefore, any type of broad front must eventually become a national liberation movement, as well as a socialist movement, for it to truly be revolutionary. However, the Independence Party is putting the cart before the horse.

How in the world are Puerto Ricans going to develop a National Liberation movement that unites most of the working class and other oppressed sectors, if they are opposing actually working with these sectors until they are convinced of independence? As Rosa Luxemburg said, “Those who don’t move do not feel their chains.” Socialists are obviously aware that they can’t presume a worker’s movement will be openly and unquestionably for socialism from day one. That’s part of the struggle. Radicalizing and organizing workers has to be the starting point, even if at that starting point they are not yet totally convinced for socialism. Nationalist independence activists seem to be unable to grasp this dynamic. From day one, they require workers, gays, lesbians, community activists, etc to be totally in favor of independence; otherwise, we can work together sometimes but not organically in a movement.

In this sense, it is with great sorrow, that we have to conclude the Puerto Rican Independence Party is actually becoming a reactionary force. Their conservatism has certainly affected their support. From more than 100,000 votes in the 2000 elections (5%) they have decreased to below 40,000 votes in 2008 (less than 3%).

Meanwhile, the recently founded Working People’s Party, which originated from the socialist movement, is seeking to fill the void the Independence Party has created. The Working People’s Party is not openly for independence or for socialism. Why? Because it is trying to develop precisely the broad front politics we have been talking about. It wants to unite in practice, workers and all other oppressed sectors to struggle against neoliberalism. These sectors are mostly not yet in favor of independence or socialism. But, as Rosa Luxemburg says, once they start moving, they will hopefully feel their chains. In any case, organizing workers and oppressed sectors is a precondition for revolutionary struggle. So, even if they are not from day one, in favor of total independence and socialism, organizing these sectors, empowering these sectors, is without a doubt, a stepping-stone toward revolution.

New Working People’s Party in Puerto Rico

For the first time in 32 years, Puerto Ricans will have a Working People’s Party in the ballot in the upcoming November elections.

 

Traditionally, island politics have been reduced to a continuous shifting of power from the Pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) and the pro-status quo Popular Democratic Party (PPD), while the Puerto Rican Independence Party struggled each election to obtain at least 3% of the votes in order to be automatically registered for the next elections. The status orientated definition of parties usually meant that class issues were marginalized from most discussions.

The more conservative PNP took advantage of its turns at power to implement the typical neoliberal agenda of budget cuts, privatization, and repressive law making. When it was the ideologically absent-minded PPD’s turn, they did not overturn any of the measures and simply sailed through hoping for the best. The Puerto Rican Independence party, although self declared social democratic and member of the Socialist International, typically centered their campaigns on nationalist sentiments, inspiring little votes from the population.

The 2008 elections had a new contender, the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party. Their campaign was ideologically moderate and environment oriented, and urged Puerto Ricans to move past debates on the political status in order to start getting things done. Surprisingly, the new party obtained even more votes than the Independence Party and almost enough to be automatically registered for the next election. The Independence Party went from obtaining more than 100,000 votes in the 2000 elections (more than 5%) to a little over 39,000 in 2008 (2%). Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico obtained more than 50,000 votes, representing almost 3%. This new factor urged many on the left who did not feel identified with the Independence Party to register two new parties: the Sovereignty Union Movement (MUS) and the Working People’s Party (PPT).

Even though the MUS has a rather progressive stance on most topics, their focus is on obtaining sovereignty for Puerto Rico, be it through independence or a free association pact with the US. Their objective was to look for alliances with sectors of the PPD who agreed minimally with the need for political sovereignty, although not with complete independence. The PPT on the other hand, although founded by activists publicly know to be in favor of independence, decided to not take a stance on status and center their campaign around working people’s issues. Their postures on gender, race, and environmental issues are the most progressive among all parties. Also, they emphasize the need for participatory democracy and socially based economic development through worker ownership and self-management much more than the MUS or the Independence Party.

As non-affiliated votes will now be divided among four minority parties, it is unlikely that any one of them will achieve seats in the upcoming government or the necessary votes to be automatically registered for the next elections. Nevertheless, the creation of a Working People’s Party is a historical and important step forward to any radical change in Puerto Rico.

They have already demonstrated the tactical advantage of their inscription by playing and important role in the No-No campaign during the recent referendum. Also, it is likely that they will initiate a new type of politics in the island, linking electoral participation with grassroots militancy in the streets. A good example being that two actual PPT candidates for the upcoming elections were arrested for displaying protest banners during a senatorial session. The action was also in protest of the new penal code approved by the PNP administration, which has been considered an almost fascist measure as it criminalizes most kinds of civil protest.

Hopefully, the PPT will be successful in radically utilizing the electoral process to agitating, educating, and organizing workers along with all other marginalized and oppressed sectors of Puerto Rican society.

Puerto Ricans say NO and NO to right-wing assault on constitution

The people of Puerto Rico have rejected right-wing governor and candidate Luis Fortuño’s proposed amends to the constitution by means of a referendum, celebrated August 19, 2012. The proposed amends would have reorganized the U.S colonies’ electoral districts, reduced the number of legislators, and eliminated the right to bail under certain circumstances. The electoral reform was rejected by 54% of the voters while the elimination of bail was rejected by 55% of voters.

The main criticism toward the electoral reform was based on the fact that the proposed electoral districts were strategically structured as to ensure future political victories for Fortuño’s New Progressive Party (PNP). On the other hand, the main criticisms toward the elimination of bail concentrated on the fact that it was undermining the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. Also, most left-wing and liberal analysts agreed that the elimination of bail would not make any dent in the nation’s ongoing crime wave, considering that its main contributing factor is the nation’s ongoing economic recession.

Surprisingly, Fortuño’s rival in the upcoming November elections, center-right candidate Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), supported in full the proposals. Most of the other leaders of his party, however, publicly supported to vote No on both, the electoral reform and the elimination of bail. Nevertheless, the “No-No” campaign was most predominantly organized by the left-wing Working People’s Party, the social democratic Puerto Rican Independence Party, the liberal Sovereignty Union Movement, along with numerous social movements and grassroots organizations.

The victory has filled the Puerto Rican left with joy and optimism; especially toward the upcoming elections, were for the first time in years there are three new political parties challenging the PNP-PPD hegemony: the Working People’s Party, the Sovereignty Union Movement, and Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico (Moderate environmental agenda). These will join the historical Puerto Rican Independence Party as the minority parties of the elections. Even though their chances of obtaining a significant number of seats in the colonial government are slim, they are hoping to start altering the traditional dynamic, which has done nothing but perpetuate the status quo on the island.

Finally, yet to be analyzed are the implications of this particular victory on the upcoming referendum on the political status of Puerto Rico, also this November.  Puerto Ricans shall express if they wish continuing as a U.S colony or if they prefer a non-colonial status, and also which non-colonial status they prefer (becoming the 51st state of the U.S, becoming an independent state, or becoming a sovereign state associated with the U.S). The decision, however, lies in the hands of the U.S congress, no matter what the outcome of the referendum; exemplifying the undemocratic colonial state in which Puerto Rico currently resides.