Puerto Rico: “Freedom for Oscar López Rivera, Now!”

by Ángel Carrión · Translated by Amy Gulvin (Global Voices Online) –  On 11 June 2013

Oscar López Rivera’s [1] has already spent 32 years in prison in the United States. It is said that he is the longest-serving political prisoner in the western hemisphere. Originally, he was sentenced to 55 years for “seditious conspiracy”; later another 15 were added for a total of 70 years, due to an alleged escape attempt. The only crime he committed was to fight for Puerto Rican independence.

Puerto Rico has been under the dominion of the United States since the invasion of the Island in 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American War [2]. Since then, there has been a series of struggles by groups seeking to free Puerto Rico from United States control through armed combat, perhaps the most dramatic example of these conflicts being the nationalist uprising of 1950 in the town of Jayuya [3].

"Freedom for Oscar López Rivera, Now!" by Kike Estrada. Taken with permission from planetakike.com. [4]

“Freedom for Oscar López Rivera, Now!” by Kike Estrada.

In the case of Oscar López, even the United States government recognized, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, that the sentence that Oscar is serving is disproportional to the charges brought against him. In 1999, President Clinton offered him a pardon, but Oscar rejected it because his comrades, prisoners like him, would continue to be deprived of their freedom.

Oscar, like other comrades who have been imprisoned for fighting for Puerto Rican independence, assumed the status of prisoner of war on being an anticolonial combatant. He does not recognize the United States jurisdiction, and demands instead that an international tribunal bring him to trial, or one from a third country that is not involved in the conflict between the United States and Puerto Rico. As Alejandro Torres Rivera, writing for Red Betances [5][es] says:

De acuerdo con el Protocolo I de la Convención de Ginebra de 1949, la protección que dicho Convenio Internacional reconoce a los prisioneros de guerra, se extiende también a personas capturadas en conflictos o luchas contra la ocupación colonial, la ocupación de un país por parte de regímenes racistas y a aquellos otros que participan de luchas por la libre determinación de sus pueblos. Así lo ratifica también la Resolución 2852 (XXVI) de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas de 20 de diciembre de 1971 y la Resolución 3103 (XXVIII) del 13 de diciembre de 1973, cuando establece:

“Todo participante en los movimientos de resistencia, luchando por la independencia y la autodeterminación si es arrestado, tiene que recibir el tratamiento estipulado en la Convención de Ginebra.”

De acuerdo con el referido protocolo, un prisionero de guerra no puede ser juzgado como un criminal común, mucho menos si la causa de tal procedimiento descansa en actos relacionados con su participación en una lucha anticolonial.

In accordance with Protocol I of the Geneva Convention of 1949, the protection that this International Agreement recognizes for prisoners of war, extends also to people caught in conflicts or struggles against colonial occupation, occupation of a country by racist regimes and to those others who participate in struggles for the self-determination of their peoples. It is also ratified by Resolution 2852 (XXVI) of the United Nations General Assembly of 20 December 1971 and Resolution 3103 (XXVIII) of December 13, 1973, when it is established that:

“All participants in the resistance movements, fighting for independence and self-determination, if arrested, must receive treatment as stipulated in the Geneva Convention.”

In accordance with the protocol referred to, a prisoner of war cannot be judged as a common criminal, much less if the cause of such a procedure rests on acts related to his or her participation in an anticolonial struggle. Continue reading

Grasping the Lessons of a Year of Struggle

The Lessons of 2011: Transcending the Old, Fostering the New, and Settling Outstanding Accounts

Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Friday, February 24, 2012

The militant working class struggles of 2011 – from the strikes and occupation in Wisconsin, to the countless demonstrations against Wall Street Banks,  the direct action and broad resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, to housing occupations throughout the country, to the defeat of regressive anti-Union legislation in Ohio, to the (inter)national explosion of the Occupy Movement – demonstrated the critical fact that the multi-national working class contained in the United States can stop the” shock doctrine”  measures being imposed upon it by transnational capital and the neo-liberal state.

The initial returns on these struggles are not insubstantial. Just two months into 2012, we have witnessed ILWU Local 21 coming to an agreement with transnational conglomerate EGT/Bunge in large part due to the impact of the Port Shut Down actions in Seattle, Portland, Oakland, and Los Angeles on December 12, 2011 and the threat of mass industrial action in Longview by the Occupy Movement allied with the Million Worker March Movement and militant rank and file members of the ILWU. Inspired by the Occupy Movement, the mass action in Oakland on November 2, 2001 and coast wide actions of December 12, Truck drivers in California and Washington State took independent organizing and industrial action to win wage and safety concessions from employers and potential legislation in Washington State that that will enable the Truckers to unionize.  The victory in Longview halts the concerted drive to destroy the ILWU and further weaken organized labor and the pending Washington State legislation could potentially reverse decades of circumvention of the Wagner Act and provide an opening for sectors (and with it oppressed peoples) historically excluded from its protections.

None of this would be possible without the militant mass action of the multi-national working class, both unionized and non-unionized, acting in open defiance of the rules of engagement established between organized labor, capital, and the state in the 1930’s with the New Deal. As the power struggle between capital and the working class intensifies over whom and how the economic crisis will be resolved, the working class would do well to recall the lessons of 2011 and build on them. In addition to reaffirming the lesson that the working class must rely on militant mass action – that is strikes, occupations, blockades, general strikes and other forms of industrial action – as a primary means of exerting its own will and power, several other critical lessons we believe must be affirmed. These lessons include:

  1. That in order to halt and over turn the slide of the labor unions, the unions must wage struggle beyond the confines of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and/or the Wagner Act framework.
  2. That mass action will only be successful if it pulls in and engages broad sectors of the working class, particularly critical sectors of the 89% of the multi-national working class that is not unionized, and directly addresses their issues and demands.
  3. That new forms of working class organization must be constructed capable of organizing workers as a self-conscious class that encompasses and incorporates the broad diversity of its totality as differentiated by race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and legal status.
  4. That the multi-national working class must build, maintain, and exert its political independence from the Democrats (and Republicans), and not rely on electoral politics and processes (such as the recall efforts in Wisconsin that worked to negate mass action) to exercise its power, realize its demands, and build the society it envisions.
  5. That the struggle for equity and economic democracy necessitates struggling to reclaim and redefine as much public space as possible – particularly the Ports given their strategic importance to the distribution of the necessary goods that sustain life – in order to rebuild the “commons” and exert democratic control over various processes of social production and exchange.
  6. That the decolonization of the entity presently known as the United States national state is fundamental to the social and material liberation of the multi-national working class, particularly its subjected and colonized sectors, i.e. Indigenous Nations, New Afrikans (Black people), Xicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Native Hawaiians.

However, it should be noted that the struggles of 2011 and the lessons gleamed from them did not come out of nowhere. Continue reading

Police in Puerto Rico Accused of Abuses

[Excerpt from Repeating Islands blog at http://repeatingislands.com/2011/09/08/police-in-puerto-rico-accused-of-abuses/]

Puerto Rico police have a history of abuse, politically repressive violence, and impunity

Charlie Savage and Lizette Alvarez (The New York Times) reported today (September 8, 2011) on the United States Justice Department’s denunciation of the Puerto Rico Police Department, underlining “a ‘profound’ and ‘longstanding’ pattern of civil rights violations and other illegal practices.” Here are excerpts here with a link to the full article below:

In a 116-page report that officials intend to make public Thursday, the civil rights division of the Justice Department accused the Puerto Rico Police Department of systematically “using force, including deadly force, when no force or lesser force was called for,” unnecessarily injuring hundreds of people and killing “numerous others.” The report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, says the 17,000-officer force routinely conducts illegal searches and seizures without warrants. It accuses the force of a pattern of attacking nonviolent protesters and journalists in a manner “designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights.” Continue reading

Puerto Rico: 15,000 March to End Police Occupation of University of Puerto Rico

Maritza Stanchich, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, University of Puerto Rico

February 14, 2011
Student protests at University of Puerto Rico have broadly mobilized the public against the police occupation of the campus with about 15,000 marching along the main thoroughfares around the urban campus Saturday shouting “¡Fuera Policía, Fuera!” (Get Out Police, Get Out!), in response to police brutality during last week’s volatile start of the semester.

A campus melee Wednesday of apparently indiscriminate police brutality led to more than 25 student arrests, including some who were not protesting, and with serious injuries reported. The day culminated with leaders of the professors organization APPU (Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios) calling a 24-hour work stoppage, which was then supported by the staff union HEEND (Hermandad de Empleados Exentos No Docentes), to the chants of a crowd of about 1,000 students occupying the iconic clock tower housing Chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe’s office. All the students arrested that day were later released without charges. Thursday afternoon, the Hermandad extended the walkout another 24 hours, leaving the campus desolate for a second consecutive day on Friday. Continue reading

Puerto Rico: Violence Against Student Strike Escalates With Police Brutality and Rubber Bullets

Maritza Stanchich, Ph.D.,Associate Professor of English, University of Puerto Rico

Huffington Post, February 2, 2011

More than 150 students practicing civil disobedience have been arrested in Puerto Rico and riot police on Thursday escalated violent repression of a university strike with brutal arrests and rubber bullets during a sit-in demonstration at the Capitol. As President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for governmental prudence during a historic revolt in Egypt, the most basic free speech rights are under attack with apparent impunity in this U.S. territory of about four million U.S. citizens still grappling with a century-old colonial relationship with the United States.

Meanwhile, the Reaganite Republican and pro Statehood Governor, Luis Fortuño, was again traveling on Friday, with a trip to California sponsored by The Heritage Foundation, though he denied attending a controversial event nearby with the billionaire Koch brothers behind the Tea Party movement. Fortuño’s bold austerity measures and ruthlessness have made him a Republican Party darling, as strategists scramble for Latino leaders they can promote while rejecting immigration reform and with Tea Party followers spewing hate speech against Latino immigrants. Continue reading

Puerto Rico: University student protest wins broad support

December 23, 2010: Students and supporters in Puerto Rico demonstrated against police presence in the UPR and against the $ 800 fee the UPR administration wants to impose on the students. In the evening a concert took place in support of students from the UPR.

UPR supporters swell the ranks of fee protest

December 24, 2010
by Juan A. Hernandez
University of Puerto Rico students  once again received the support of thousands of people in their struggle to avert the imposition next semester of the $800 Special Fiscal Stabilization Fee.

A crowd of several thousand people demonstrated Thursday along with UPR students in a picket line that extended from the main gate of the Río Piedras campus to the intersection of Ponce de León and Gándara avenues.

“We are here with our sons and daughters to defend their education and our university,” said an unidentified woman marching among the students. “We are not troublemakers; we are parents.”

During a press conference Wednesday, labor and community leaders had called for the demonstration in support of the student struggle against the $800 special fee and the presence of police detachments on campus. Community leaders from Villa Sin Miedo (San Juan), Villas del Sol (Toa Baja), Sonadora (Aguas Buenas) and others came to express their support. At the same time, labor leaders from General Workers Union, the Puerto Rico Workers Syndicate, the Puerto Rico Workers Federation, the Electric and Irrigation Industry Workers Union, known as UTIER, and the Puerto Rico Teachers Association and Federation, among many others, also turned out to express their support. Continue reading

Puerto Rico: University students in standoff with riot police as their strike continues

http://www.prdailysun.com/news/Students-joined-by-professors-as-strike-continues

December 16, 2010

A standoff between University of Puerto Rico students and members of the police Tactical Operations Division (riot squad) marked the second day of the strike that has practically paralyzed all academic and administrative activities in the Río Piedras campus.

The standoff, which lasted over four hours and covered the streets of Río Piedras, came around 1 p.m. after a group of some 250 students stormed onto the Natural Sciences building clapping and chanting slogans along its hallways.

“We don’t want to study in a military camp … We’re on strike, there are no classes,” chanted the students as they gathered at the building’s central plaza in an effort to interrupt the few classes in session.

Several non-teaching university employees watched the student protest from a distance, without joining in, but expressing their support for the students’ plight. “We all support the students but the administration has threatened us with dismissal,” said an unidentified university employee about their presence on campus. “Otherwise we would be marching with them [the students].” Continue reading