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Puerto Ricans Won't Accept US-Imposed Austerity Without a Fight

En este momento estamos obligadas a rescatar el espacio político cedido gracias a la manipulación perversa de los partidos antiguos y de los sirvientes que se benefician del estatus colonial y de las desigualdades. Ya hemos pagado un precio demasiado alto: asesinatos por homofobia, una colonia endeudada, violencia hacia las mujeres, medio país en pobreza, cierres de escuelas, gente sin servicios de salud. Hablemos de política, seamos políticas y políticos sin miedo y sin vergüenza porque la política no es sucia ni degradante. Lo que sí es sucio es dejar el país en manos de la politiquería que nos vendieron como única posibilidad. Nos merecemos mucho más. Y ahora mismo el país necesita mucho más para combatir los efectos de la Junta de Control Fiscal.

The fiscal control board was approved by both Republican and Democratic legislators and signed into law by President Obama on June 30, 2016. In the picture, protesters in front of the Federal Court building in the capital of San Juan, who organized a permanent civil disobedience camp. Picture taken from the public Facebook page Campamento Contra la Junta.

June 30 was a historic day for Puerto Rico, albeit an unhappy one. US President Barack Obama signed into law the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which imposes a fiscal control board with extraordinary emergency powers over the government of Puerto Rico. The islands, which are a US territory, are grappling with more than $70 billion of debt, and the board was promoted as a kind of relief measure.

But Puerto Ricans have no say whatsoever. Many see the board, whose powers go well beyond those of other fiscal boards found in recent US history, as colonialism at its plainest.

The junta, or “board” in Spanish, will be composed of seven members appointed by the president, some of whom are chosen from lists provided by Congress. Members will have complete control over the budget, revenues and operation of the government of Puerto Rico. Its decisions are final and cannot be appealed, nor are its members held accountable if something goes wrong.

On the night of June 29, after the US Senate approved the bill in a 68-30 vote, social media users who were following the Senate's proceedings expressed feelings of sadness, uncertainty and most of all, impotence. For Twitter user and research director of the Center for a New Economy, Deepak Lamba-Nieves, PROMESA is an act of violence:

Immediately after President Obama signed PROMESA into law, citizens organized a permanent civil disobedience camp in front of the Federal Court building in the capital city of San Juan.

Social media has proved vital to their efforts. Through their Facebook page, Campamento Contra la Junta (Camp Against the Board), they document their activities and ask for necessary supplies.

On the night of July 3, personnel from the Federal Court building lit lamps powered by generators that emit carbon monoxide gas near the protesters, presumably to break up the civil disobedience camp, as stated in this Spanish-language post from their Facebook page. Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International have urged the federal government to guarantee the safety of the protesters.

A recent post on the civil disobedience camp's Facebook page clearly states their goals and intentions:

Somos un grupo de Boricuas que desde la convocatoria del ‪#‎CampamentoContraLaJunta‬ el 29 de junio de 2016 adoptó la postura de resistencia pacífica en contra de la imposición del proyecto HR5278 mejor conocido como PROMESA o la Junta de Control Fiscal. Además, nos encontramos acampando en contra de la deuda, que NO reconocemos como nuestra, y el coloniaje. Queremos ser clarxs y transparentes por esa razón repetimos: SOMOS UN CAMPAMENTO DE RESISTENCIA PACÍFICA. CUALQUIER TIPO DE VIOLENCIA EJECUTADA EN EL ÁREA NO SERÁ PROPICIADA POR NINGÚN MIEMBRO DEL CAMPAMENTO.

We are a group of Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) who since the call went out for the Camp Against the Board on June 29, 2016, have assumed a position of peaceful resistance against the imposition of HR 5278, better known as PROMESA, or the Fiscal Control Board. We also protest against the debt, which we do NOT acknowledge as ours, and against colonialism. We wish to be clear and transparent on this matter, so we repeat: WE ARE A PEACEFUL RESISTANCE CAMP. ANY TYPE OF VIOLENCE PERPETRATED IN THE AREA WILL NOT BE CONDONED BY ANY MEMBER OF THE CAMP.

"Respect the existence, or expect resistance." Memes and digital art against PROMESA have flourished. This image was widely distributed on social media.

“Respect the existence, or expect resistance.” Memes and digital art against PROMESA have flourished. This image was widely distributed on social media.

An editorial published by independent news site El Post Antillano urged Puerto Ricans to disobey whatever austerity measures the fiscal control board ultimately imposes. The strategies to be used, however, can and should be pluralistic:

Siendo esta una relación entre un gobierno autoritario y despótico, y un pueblo esclavizado, es momento de medir y ponderar de forma profunda cual debe ser nuestra respuesta. Y atención, que no debe de haber una sola respuesta en específico, pues no somos un pueblo homogéneo. Somos muchos pueblos, mucha gente, muchas personas, en un solo pueblo.

This being a relationship between an authoritarian and despotic government and an enslaved people, it is time to measure and ponder deeply what our answer should be. And mind you, it shouldn't be a single specific answer, since we are not a homogeneous people. We are many peoples, many persons, in one single nation.

Blogger and feminist activist Amárilis Pagán Jiménez called on everyone to “reclaim the political sphere,” which is usually associated with corruption due to the actions of the old political parties that have alternated power for the past decades:

En este momento estamos obligadas a rescatar el espacio político cedido gracias a la manipulación perversa de los partidos antiguos y de los sirvientes que se benefician del estatus colonial y de las desigualdades.  Ya hemos pagado un precio demasiado alto: asesinatos por homofobia, una colonia endeudada, violencia hacia las mujeres, medio país en pobreza, cierres de escuelas, gente sin servicios de salud.

Hablemos de política, seamos políticas y políticos sin miedo y sin vergüenza porque la política no es sucia ni degradante. Lo que sí es sucio es dejar el país en manos de la politiquería que nos vendieron como única posibilidad. Nos merecemos mucho más. Y ahora mismo el país necesita mucho más para combatir los efectos de la Junta de Control Fiscal.

In this moment it is our obligation to reclaim the political space we have yielded thanks to the perverse manipulation of the old political parties and the servants who benefit from the colonial status and inequalities. We have already paid too high a price: killings by homophobes, an indebted colony, violence against women, half the country in poverty, school closings, people with no medical services.

Let's talk about politics, let's be political without fear and without shame because politics is neither dirty nor degrading. What is dirty is to leave the country in the hands of partisan politics, which was presented to us as the only possibility. We deserve much more. And right now the country needs much more to fight the effects of the Fiscal Control Board.

  • Mke

    Guess it’s time to become independent.

    • southtpa

      cut them loose, let them sink on their own

      • Kevin Schmidt

        Obviously, you did not read the article or you are illiterate.
        They already sank because they weren’t cut loose. They were exploited, and now the US fascists want to exploit them again. This truly is an act of violence against the people of Puerto Rico.

        • TecumsehUnfaced

          They were getting their independence from Spain, when the U.S. Navy first took them 1898.

          • Kevin Schmidt

            Which has nothing to do with my comment.

          • TecumsehUnfaced

            You can get gratuitously nasty sometimes. I was just pointing out that Puerto Rico has suffered a long history of violation by the U.S. I apologize for disturbing you.

          • GRMO

            Haha yes you know very little of the history of Puerto Rico. The US did not liberate Puerto Rico. When they invaded Puerto Rico was already a soverign autonomous province of Spain. Puerto Rico had its own self sufficient diverse economy (when the US invaded they robbed over 40% of the arable land and converted it to sugar cane plantations which became the island’s sole export. Which before coffee was the main product. Now keep in mind the US appointed governor was the president of the largest US sugar company. Classic banana republic), it’s own currency (which at the time before the US invasion had the same value as the US dollar but when they invaded imposed a devaluation of 40%, so people lost 40% of their savings/earnings over night), had their own democratically elected delegates with voting powers in the Spanish royal courts. The US liberated nothing but imposed imperialism on an already soverign people.

          • TecumsehUnfaced

            Whee did I say the the U.S. liberated Puerto Rico? The U.S. took it. Congratulation for reading Nelson Dennis’ book, War on all Puerto Ricans!

          • GRMO

            I misunderstood you, when you said we won independence from Spain. Cheers hermano borinqueño.

          • TecumsehUnfaced

            No, the U.S. took Puerto Rico just when it was scheduled to set up its own government. Apparently, I should have worded my statement to be free from misinterpretation.

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  • Randl Lieb

    How is it that more US citizens can’t see our country for what it is, an Empire.

  • David Segal

    Puerto Rico: America’s Greece. Their own leadership will buckle under the heel of the banks.

  • Norberto Rivera

    In PR there is 3.5 millions people and probably more than half are in favor of PROMESA. You can count the people protesting, maybe 50 people. That it is not representative. And now you tell them that anyone protesting will be eliminate from any type of federal help they maybe getting and they will run for the hills. Welcome, Promesa!

    • Laura Candelas

      Not true.A survey published by the major newspaper El Nuevo Día, showed that 53% were against PROMESA/LA JUNTA and, around 80% knew little or nothing about it.

  • Maria Isabel

    We want Sean Duffy Republican from WI out of office and all the politicians that voted for this immoral bill. Make no mistake my people, this was a land grab!

    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/114-2016/h288 find your district, your local politician and vote NO on Nov 8th. We need to send a clear message, “Any politician who creates or votes for bills that hurt the Natives will lose their livelihood.” Make it happen! Register to vote. We don’t have much time. Why should they continue to climb the ladder.

  • curriec

    Since our Congress CREATED Puerto Rico’s financial problems about 10 years ago when it changed Puerto Rico’s tax rules, our Congress SHOULD be held responsible for paying off MOST or ALL of that that $70 Billion debt. For our Congress, that would be a mere “drop in the bucket.” But this present Congress clearly prefers to INCREASE poverty throughout Puerto Rico with its “austerity measures.”

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