Revolutionary Worker #1204, June 22, 2003, posted at rwor.org
On June 9, the United Nations De-colonialization Committee held its annual hearings on the status of Puerto Rico. Representatives of ProLibertad, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, Frente Socialista, and other sections of the Puerto Rican movement came from Puerto Rico and from Puerto Rican communities around the United States to testify.
This year's De-colonization Committee hearings came at a crucial time--a few weeks after important developments in the long struggle around the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. For 60 years the U.S. Navy carried out massive weapons testing and bombing on Vieques, home to thousands of people. The U.S. bombing poisoned the water and soil of Vieques. Residents died of cancer and other diseases.
Protests against the U.S. bombing of Vieques have been an important part of the people's struggle to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. imperialist domination. In the face of determined struggle by the Puerto Rican people and their supporters, the U.S. government was finally forced to shut down the Vieques bombing range on May 1 of this year. Hundreds of protesters poured into the Navy base on Vieques that day, expressing their anger at the many decades of U.S. bombing of the island.
While the Vieques bombing range has been closed, the U.S. has said nothing about cleaning up the toxic material left in the area. And the U.S. seeks to strengthen its overall domination of Puerto Rico-- especially its huge military presence on the island. Puerto Rico continues to be important to the U.S. rulers as a military outpost and staging area for invasions and interventions in Latin America and elsewhere.
It was 104 years ago that the U.S. imperialists, claiming to be "liberators," began the occupation of Puerto Rico--just as they now carry out a brutal occupation of Iraq and call it "liberation." For the people of Puerto Rico, U.S. military occupation is an ongoing reality--and resistance continues.
Among those who testified at the June 19 De-colonization Committee hearing was independentista Luis Rosa Perez, who was released from prison in 1999 after many years as a political prisoner. Here are some portions of his testimony before the Committee, which Luis Rosa Peres shared with the RW .
I am an ex-prisoner of war, released in 1999 along with 10 other comrades, thanks to the efforts of a brave nation that refuses to surrender despite a long history of colonialism. To them, and to the acts of solidarity from nations all over the planet, I owe my release....
Committee members, I am grateful for the opportunity to appear before you. We do not believe that our liberation lies in this building or in the resolutions passed. We appear before you because we must condemn an empire that for 104 years has subjected our people to the atrocities of colonialism. The effects of this occupation and enslavement is manifested daily in the lives of the working class exploited by the multinational corporations; in our malnourished children; in the viequense [a resident of Vieques] who has buried a family member due to the Navy bombings, or the viequense dying a slow tortured death due to cancer; in every homeless and drug user; in every body deteriorated by AIDS; and the thousands of independentistas persecuted, incarcerated and assassinated by Puerto Rican police and the FBI.
Our people know pain and suffering. But our people have also tasted the triumph of the release of their 11 political prisoners and the halt to the Navy bombings in Vieques....
When 11 of us were released in 1999, five of us remained imprisoned: Oscar Lopez Rivera, Carlos Alberto Torres, Juan Segarra Palmer, Antonio Camacho Negron, and Haydee Beltran. While Segarra and Camacho will be released in 2004, Lopez and Torres, who have already served 22 and 23 years in prison, have release dates of 2027 and 2024; Beltran, 2010. Since the events of September 11, the government has increased the ever-present threat to their physical and political integrity, on occasion, in the name of `anti- terrorism,' removing them from general population and placing them arbitrarily in isolation and incommunicado, for no legitimate reason; and otherwise cutting back on their already limited ability to maintain communication with the outside world.
What follows is a message from Oscar Lopez Rivera, written from the maximum security penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana.
Hearing the political discourse of President Bush's administration leaves one with the impression that U.S. imperialism offers and hands out freedom and democracy left and right. But for Puerto Ricans who love freedom, democracy, justice and peace, this discourse fills us with indignation, not hope. Because it has been more than a century since the U.S. empire arrived with its cannons and rifles to our homeland to offer us freedom and democracy. Disgracefully, in reality it subjected us to a colonial yoke that we have borne for more than a century.
We are a colony, not because we have not dared to struggle for our independence and sovereignty. For 104 years, we have struggled hard and fast to break the chains of colonialism. This struggle has cost us persecution, repression, imprisonment, exile, and, for the least fortunate, their lives....
In Puerto Rico in the last four years, more than a thousand Puerto Ricans and a few non-Puerto Ricans have been imprisoned in the U.S. prison in Puerto Rico by orders of the U.S. court in Puerto Rico. They have been imprisoned for struggling to remove the U.S. Navy which for more than 60 years terrorized the residents of Vieques and turned two-thirds of Vieques' territory into a disaster zone....
On the 1st of May, thanks to more than 60 years of struggle by our people, the Navy finally left. But the U.S. government, with its characteristic arrogance, refused to deliver the lands to the people of Vieques. They refused so that they would not have to decontaminate all the surroundings contaminated by the Navy, and so that they would not have to make reparations to the victims of all the criminal and noxious activities which the Navy performed. This means that the struggle in Vieques continues.
We will continue struggling in Vieques, in Puerto Rico, and in the Puerto Rican diaspora, whatever it costs. We will struggle until our people can exercise our right to self-determination without any inter- ference by the U.S. government, and until we obtain our freedom and sovereignty....chair_s.htm chair_s.htm
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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