AUSTIN: Demonstration Calls for Solidarity with Puerto Rico Protests

By Walter Villarreal

More than one hundred Puerto Ricans and their supporters gathered with drums, flags, and posters at the south entrance of the Texas Capitol on Wednesday. The music and chanting could be heard blocks away as they called on Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló to resign, following leaked chats between him and other government officials.

Protestors hold signs calling for Rosselló’s resignation outside Texas Capitol

The crowd chanted, “Ricky Renuncia, y lleva con la junta! Cuando cuando cuando hey! Ahora ahora ahora aye!” (Ricky resign, and take the council with you! When, when, when, hey! Now, now, now, aye!)

The revelation of sexist, homophobic, and profane comments in the leaked chats has exposed Rosselló as a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary. In one message, his chief financial officer Christian Sobrino wrote, “I’m dying to shoot her up,” referring to San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz. Rosselló responded, “You’d be doing me a big favor.” The inflammatory text messages have come to light as a mounting corruption scandal has erupted following the arrest of government elites who embezzled federal funds following hurricane Maria in 2017.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested two Puerto Rican officials, Former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and former Health Insurance Administration head Angela Avila-Marrero, and four of their business associates on 32 counts of fraud and other related charges. Following this week’s group chat leak, all the senior officials involved have stepped down with the exception of Rosselló.

Originally colonized by Spain, Puerto Rico came under US imperialism as a spoil of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and remained a colony. In order to quell rebellion on the island following World War II, the US Congress passed legislation allowing Puerto Rico to elect its own governor and in 1952 was made a US territory with non-voting rights in congress and presidential elections.

Between 1950 and 2014, the imperialist-dominated governance structure of Puerto Rico allowed the island’s accumulated debt to rise from $910 million to $78 billion, eclipsing the islands total GDP. Between 2006 and 2013, Wall Street firms and hedge funds collected $1.4 billion in fees alone. Today, almost half of Puerto Rico’s total debt comes from the high-interest rates imposed by US lenders, many of which are known as “vulture firms” that specialize in exploiting high-risk troubled assets that are close to bankruptcy.

The recent protests in Puerto Rico were ignited by this month’s scandals, but the rage of the masses of Puerto Rico against US imperialism, the number one enemy of the world’s people, has been building for decades.

Speaking to the crowd on Wednesday, Hurricane Maria survivor Karissa Pellot shared her experience living in Puerto Rico following the hurricane, having witnessed people die not because of the Hurricane directly but because of the lack of response from the government, more interested in observing the demands of their imperialist bosses than relieving the suffering of the masses. She described inadequate housing, diabetics dying without access to insulin, and the failure to distribute donations and relief to communities.

Aftermath from Hurrican Maria that hit Puerto Rico in 2017

The actions of bureaucrat capitalists in Puerto Rico is representative of the actions of other leaders in Latin and South America who support and implement US imperialist policies at the expense of their nations who are continually oppressed by police and government forces.

In a situation where the unemployment rate at almost 13% and nearly half of all residents live below the poverty line, the masses of Puerto Rico are growing tired of blackouts and water rationing stemming from bureaucratic corruption and US imperialism. As the people of Puerto Rico rebel against the oppression they face, the people of the US must show international solidarity by fighting back against US imperialism at home, which with or without Rosselló has shackled Puerto Rico in chains.