On July 24th, 2019, around 11 PM, after 15 days of mass protests and strikes, Governor Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico announced his resignation. The protests began in response to a Telegram chat that was leaked to the public by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, involving the Governor and several other officials. In the chat, the governor and his cronies made misogynist and homophobic comments, mocked poor people and the thousands of people who died in Hurricane Maria, and joked about corruption and scandals among his administration. A day prior to the release of the chat, the FBI arrested several officials, including the ex- Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, who while receiving a salary of $200,000 a year, closed over 300 schools due to “lack of funding”. These officials were found to be guilty of steering millions of dollars from government projects into unqualified politically connected contractors. After suffering under the weight of austerity measures imposed by the Fiscal Control Board under PROMESA, while trying to rebuild post- Hurricane María, the corruption and this chat were just the latest in a long line of corruption and oppression, the spark that brought thousands to action.
Protesters who gathered from across the archipelago and beyond in San Juan grew to 500,000 people throughout the week, not including protests happening all over the archipelago and among the Puerto Rican diaspora from throughout the United States, Holland, to even the Arctic Circle. The masses in the streets, led by the youth, were attacked by police with batons and tear gas. Reminiscent of the struggle to oust the United States Navy from Vieques, the people took to multiple tactics to protest the governor, from kayaks to dancing to motorcades. The International League of Peoples Struggle applauds the resoluteness and persistence of the Puerto Rican people and their mass mobilizations which were victorious in ousting their governor, a puppet of the U.S. colonial regime!
After the unconstitutional appointment of Pedro Pierluisi as governor, who was the legal counsel to the fiscal control board, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico mandated him to step down, and Wanda Vazquez, the former secretary of Justice, was sworn in this week. The people have made it clear that they are done with the continued corruption of their government, and are now taking to the streets to call for the resignation and ouster of Wanda, as well.
ILPS recognizes, as many of the people in Puerto Rico have made clear, that this crisis is not only the result of the corruption of one political party, but has been caused by the root issue of the colonial system.
The imperialist powers are not taking this fight lightly, as Wall Street has already demanded more discipline and aggressive measures to stop the protesters in San Juan, recommending that more power be given to the Fiscal Control Board (“la junta” as opponents call it) to create “order”, as the hedge fund vultures only care about getting their piece of the debt.
Yet the people’s resolve remains firm. They are organizing assemblies in the various towns to talk about next steps from the ground. We must keep our eyes on the fight against colonialism in Puerto Rico as the masses continue to lead the charge and be ready to respond with our solidarity.
Que viva Puerto Rico Libre!