Puerto Rico Organizes From the Bottom Up in the Face of Economic Crisis

Photo by author.

Photo by author.

Representatives from Puerto Rico's civil society have organized to fight against austerity measures being put in place by the government in the face of a growing economic crisis.

Many of the measures come from the so-called “Krueger Report“, prepared by the former deputy managing director of the IMF, Anne Krueger. The report recommends reducing government spending, continuing to increase taxes, and reducing the minimum wage, among other measures.

Several members of the civil sector convened various events this past summer. Some have come out with banners to the financial district of Hato Rey in the capital San Juan, while other groups have gathered in amphitheaters, parks, or bookstores.

Global Voices spoke with the #A12J group that pushed for the July 12th assembly and was part of the People's Action meeting, which took place at the Capitol on July 24th.

The individual members of the group agreed to speak as a single voice.

“The assembly was called for by a group of artists of all kinds interested in detonating the collaborative aesthetic/political/poetic processes in an open and decentralized manner,” the group said of the meeting's objectives.

Purpose, form, structure and lines of communication moving forward were all addressed following the group's first meeting:

#A12J's diversity of participants aspired to “carry out concrete projects, direct actions, and other interventions.”

The method of organisation would be “autonomous, from the bottom up. The assembly in and of itself is not an organization,” the group said.

At the initial meeting, they highlighted the importance of using non-traditional methods to express themselves:

Fue una asamblea convocada, en parte, por y para una comunidad que usualmente está en minoría frente a procesos políticos tradicionales. Es una que se dedica a generar nuevas formas de relaciones sociales, nuevas economías, nuevas maneras de educarse; que incluso piensa su trabajo artístico como un trabajo político.

It was a meeting convened, in part, by and for a community that is usually in the minority when facing traditional political processes. It is one that is dedicated to creating new forms of social relations, new economies, new ways of educating; that even thinks of its artistic job as a political job.

Regarding the results of the first meeting:

La asamblea produjo una serie de grupos de trabajos: uno anti-carcelario; sobre recuperación y acceso a espacios; de guías gráficas para un nuevo país; sobre la industria del cannabis; de acción directa; uno de medios, y otros 4 o 5 grupos. Estos se formaron y reunieron por primera vez en la asamblea y están estableciendo próximas reuniones presenciales.

The assembly produced a series of working groups: anti-prison; recovery and access to spaces; graphic guides for a new country; the cannabis industry; direct action; the media; and four or five other groups. These formed and met for the first time at the assembly and they are setting up future meetings.

They clarified that they did not intend to force a consensus through the meeting, but one came about spontaneously:

Sabemos que estamos convocando a gente que ya se educan en cuanto lo político y tienen muchas ideas sobre acciones que se pueden o deben tomar, si es que no lo están haciendo ya. A una comunidad diversa, inteligente, alérgica a los discursos y los modos de organización jerárquicos e impositivos. A las mesas de discusión de expertos, no se le puede convocar para llegar a consensos ni ofrecer una posición política de antemano. Ofrecimos una estructura para la auto-organización. La asamblea le pidió a cada persona una manera de tomar acción; da la oportunidad para que el ‘consenso’ se produzca mediante la acción de los participantes.

We know that we're bringing together people who are already educated in terms of politics and have many ideas about actions that can or should be taken, if they're not already doing so. A diverse, intelligent community allergic to the hierarchical and imposing speeches and ways of organization. It is impossible to come together to reach a consensus or offer a political position in advance of the experts’ discussions. We offer a structure for self-organization. The assembly asked each person for a way to take action; it gives the opportunity for a “consensus” produced by participant action.

They said they were not expecting the state to be receptive to the proposals produced by the assembly:

No estarán receptivos, pero ellos tienen muy poco poder ahora mismo. Y el poco que tienen no lo ejercen a favor de los ciudadanos, sino a favor de los acreedores. Posiblemente los administradores gubernamentales no tienen ni una silla en la mesa de esta discusión. Estamos entre acreedores y procesos políticos más amplios y globales. Tenemos que reconocer nuestro propio poder como ciudadanos, organizarnos, encontrar los puntos de presión reales y proponer nuevas relaciones sociales y formas de vivir, que no dependan de todo tipo de saqueo e injusticia para ‘funcionar’.

They will not be receptive, but they have very little power now. And the little power they have they do not exercise in favor of the citizens, but in favor of the creditors. It's possible that the governmental administrators don't even have a seat at the table of this discussion. We are between creditors and more broader and global political processes. We have to recognize our own power as citizens, organize ourselves, find the real pressure points, and propose new social relations and ways of life that do not depend on any kind of looting and injustice to “function.”

In terms of the future of the assembly, they reiterated that they do not exist as an organization.

“For now, the groups are doing their jobs and organizing through a platform/network. Anyone can join any group. If a set of groups thinks it is important or necessary, we may come together in the future to talk about the different groups and make plans, which can only be done in person.”

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