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Puerto Rico: Behind the smokescreen of the plebiscite and bankruptcy

Pedro Ángel Rivera Muñoz  |  Issue: July 2017
video by Rhett Lee

Photo of a video of the protest and march on May Day 2017 by Rhett Lee.


By the time you read this press release, you will have learned about the results of the June 11 plebiscite vote in Puerto Rico.  The purported objective of this inquiry is to put an end to the political colonial status of Puerto Rico, in place since the U.S. military invasion of this Caribbean island in 1898.  Meanwhile, the federal control board (the Financial Oversight and Management Board) imposed by Congress over the island looks to ensure that the vultures of finance feed on the carcass of Puerto Rico’s collapsed economy once the recently declared bankruptcy of the territory is adjudicated.

The so-called Oversight (i.e. Control) Board inflicts economic austerity measures, a policy of belt tightening to make people live with much fewer resources.  Nevertheless, this fiscal policy has already provoked acts of resistance involving thousands of university students who see themselves chained to a tenuous and debt-ridden future; still-employed and organized workers who are seeing their social and economic rights rapidly being taken away; retired workers whose pensions have gone up in smoke in the roulette game of speculative finance capital; an aging population facing the growing danger of catastrophic disease and health conditions; children in an ever-worsening state of material poverty and emotional stress before the ongoing deterioration and closings of public schools; and — reinforcing the onslaught — the thousands of families headed by single mothers whose social support services will end due to the budget cuts being set by the board.


Video by Rhett Lee

Photo of a video of the protest and march on May Day 2017 by Rhett Lee.


As these conditions develop, the elites running Puerto Rican politics take advantage of the fiscal crisis and the colonial Commonwealth’s disarray, using them as smokescreens.  They aim to stifle, confuse, and blind the residents of the island to the true nature of imperial corporate capitalism that exploits and then discards the most vulnerable workers.  This is the same fate that the other working-class inhabitants of USAmerica have suffered and continue to suffer.

The fiscal board that reigns in Puerto Rico today represents the very same financial speculators whose managing boards left people homeless in Detroit, poisoned the waters of Flint and threw out African-American workers from their jobs and neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.  Between 1975 and 2009, about 120 cities and counties in the United States were under the control of such boards, enforcing austerity measures with disastrous consequences for the majority of workers in their jurisdictions.  Just in the last year alone, we have witnessed their intervention in 28 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

In the end, the face of the economic system and the social group that oppresses us is more exposed than ever.


photo by Luis Valenzuela

PHOTO: Luis Valenzuela

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