115 Years and Puerto Rico is still waiting
July 25 2013
Syndicated column distributed by the Progressive Media Project
One hundred and fifteen years ago, the United States invaded Puerto Rico, and it has never left.
On July 25, 1898, U.S. Army forces under the command of general Nelson Miles landed in Guánica, Puerto Rico. The Caribbean island, then a Spanish colony, was one of the battlegrounds of the Spanish American war.
Miles, fresh from repressing Native Americans and striking Pullman workers, presented himself as a liberator, promising freedom and self-determination for the island’s inhabitants.
We are still waiting.
At the end of the war there was no referendum. Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the USA as war booty. The island went on to become an unincorporated territory in which sovereignty belongs to the U.S. Congress, not to Puerto Ricans or their elected representatives.
That still hasn’t changed.
The United Nations accepted the U.S. argument that the Puerto Rican people had attained self-government through the 1952 constitution. Even though we can elect our governor and legislature, Congress still has ultimate sovereignty over Puerto Rico. And we have no representation in Congress, or presidential vote.
Puerto Rico’s constitution prohibits the death penalty and spying on citizens on the basis of their political beliefs. But U.S. law enforcement authorities have taken Puerto Rican prisoners away for execution in the states, and Puerto Rico is at the mercy of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and the rampant espionage of the NSA.
To merely say, as I have heard many well meaning Americans say, that “I’m all for Puerto Rico’s self-determination” or “I believe Puerto Ricans should decide their destiny” is not enough.
There should be support for specific measures, like freedom for our political prisoner Oscar López, who has been in U.S. prisons for 32 years for exactly the same “crimes” as Nelson Mandela.
The United States should also allow the United Nations General Assembly to look into the colonial case of Puerto Rico. Americans should call for complete disclosure of actions taken by the FBI to undermine the independence movement.
FBI Cointelpro documents released in the 1970’s revealed massive surveillance and disruption of pro-independence organizations dating back decades.
And there should be thorough investigations of the murders of independentista activists, like Santiago Mari-Pesquera, abducted and murdered in 1976, and Angel Rodríguez-Cristóbal, who mysteriously died in a U.S. prison cell in 1979.
All this, for starters.
We Puerto Ricans deserve self-determination and sovereignty.
We’ve waited a century and a decade and a half.
That is way too long.