7 Obligations the U.S. Must Fulfill to Decolonize Puerto Rico

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July 25th marks 116 years since the U.S. Navy invaded and occupied the Latin American nation of Puerto Rico. While a number of people will be moved to protest this fact, as has the Nationalist Party every single year at the original site of the invasion in Guánica, others will be honoring the current colonial formula imposed, also on this day, 62 years ago.

Members of the Nationalist Party before their march in Guánica 2010.

Members of the Nationalist Party before their march in Guánica 2010.

That this formula, known as the Free Associated State or Commonwealth, has been repudiated for decades by several world governments and international organizations, most notably within the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, is of no concern to such people. In these circles, international law and procedure is inconsequential, and Puerto Rico’s status is either sufficient as is, or to be determined solely by U.S. Congressional law.

As an individual conscious of the popular and widespread demand for the decolonization of the Caribbean territory, i wanted to list some of the obligations i understand the U.S. as being responsible for fulfilling towards the Puerto Rican people under such a process.

My hopes are that we use this day to consider these obligations, comment on or even critique the importance of each, and, if desired, add others one feels should be included.

7 Obligations the U.S. Must Fulfill For Puerto Rico’s Decolonization:

1. End the imprisonment and threatening of people because of their political activities and associations. As a prerequisite for any process of decolonization, all who are in prison for their involvement in Puerto Rico’s independence movement must be released. Independence is recognized as an inalienable right of all peoples, so supporters of such must be free to take part in the decolonial process without fear of imprisonment.

2. Withdraw all federal and colonial institutions. In order to ensure an authentic process of self-determination, the Puerto Rican people must be free of pressure and intimidation from the FBI, U.S. Courts, and all other potentially repressive forces. Their presence in Puerto Rico only impedes the necessary construction of the island’s own institutions.

3. Support the free and objective education of the people around their status options. As the imperial power subjecting Puerto Rico to colonialism for 116 years, the U.S. has the responsibility to take part in studying and informing people as to the history and effects of its colonial relationship with the island, as well as its alternatives. This includes detailing the possible form(s) of reparations to be taken, and other economic aspects that would dispel the ungrounded belief that independence is an economic impossibility.

4. Prosecute those responsible for the murder of Puerto Rican independence activists. Just as independence activists currently imprisoned must receive justice, so must those killed by the FBI and other repressive agencies. The murders of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos (2005), Carlos Muñiz Varela (1979), and Santiago Mari Pesquera (1976), among others, must be thoroughly investigated, and all responsible parties must be held criminally liable.

5. Reverse the economic damage caused by decades of exploitation and mismanagement. Considering the current levels of poverty, unemployment, and resulting crime, all of which are connected to years of an irresponsible colonial government, the U.S. has an absolute responsibility to provide reparations to correct this situation. The U.S. must directly support the development of a viable economic infrastructure for Puerto Rico.

6. Ensure the active cleanup of former military sites like Vieques and Culebra. As with the effects of its economic damage, the U.S. is responsible for addressing the environmental damage it has caused in Puerto Rico after using its lands, most notably Vieques and Culebra, as a bombing range for decades. The chemicals dispersed in nearby beaches and oceans have produced considerable health issues among the people living in these locations that cannot be overlooked and must be attended to immediately.

7. Guarantee the participation of the Puerto Rican Diaspora in their homeland’s future. The colonial history of Puerto Rico, particularly the effects of its economic aspects, has forced the migration of Puerto Ricans to the point that those in the U.S. now outnumber those on the island. An authentic process of decolonization must involve these members of the Puerto Rican Nation by virtue of their nature in large part as economic exiles, and due to the fact that many maintain connections to the island, some in the form of remittances.

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