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Vol. 72/No. 25      June 23, 2008

Socialist candidate defends
Puerto Rican independence struggle
The following is the statement by Róger Calero, U.S. presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, to the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, June 9. Subheads are by the Militant.

Distinguished Chairman and honored committee members:

I join with my fellow fighters here in protesting the latest attempts by the U.S. government to harass and intimidate Puerto Rican independence fighters through the use of federal grand jury “investigations.” Washington historically has used grand juries as fishing expeditions to frame-up and jail independence advocates and working-class fighters, both in Puerto Rico and the United States.

I also join in condemning the recent moves by the colonial government to decertify the Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers. This attack builds on earlier assaults that the U.S. government—under the hypocritical cover of fighting corruption—launched against the water workers union, with FBI raids of union headquarters and intervening in the internal affairs of the union membership.

If the U.S. government and its political police get away with these attacks, they will be emboldened to go after other unions in Puerto Rico, and in the United States.  
FBI war on independence movement
The FBI’s war on the Puerto Rican independence movement and the unions underscores the reality that Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony. My fellow fighters for independence here have offered a wealth of facts demonstrating that reality. They have explained why independence from Washington’s rule is a necessity for the people of Puerto Rico, if they are to freely determine their own future.

I’d like to add that the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence is also in the interests of the vast majority of the people of the United States.

A successful struggle for the freedom of Puerto Rico will deal powerful blows to our common exploiters and oppressors—the tiny class of billionaire families that rules the United States. It will show that it is possible to stand up to the world’s mightiest and most brutal imperialist power and break free of its domination. As long as Puerto Rico is under the U.S. colonial boot, Washington and Wall Street will be strengthened, and the fighting capacity and solidarity of working people in the United States will be weakened.

The U.S. government has used Puerto Rico as a launching pad for attacks on countries around the world, from its invasion of Grenada in 1983 to the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The continued U.S. military presence in Puerto Rico reinforces Washington’s moves to step up its military intervention in Latin America. Under the banner of its so-called war on terror, the Pentagon recently announced the reestablishment of the Fourth U.S. Naval Fleet to carry out operations in the Caribbean and South American waters—targeting the people of Cuba and Venezuela and anyone else who stands up to Yankee domination.

I join with others here to demand the immediate release of all Puerto Rican independence fighters, locked in U.S. prisons. This year marks the 28th anniversary of the arrests of Carlos Alberto Torres, and Haydée Beltran, and the 27th year for Oscar López Rivera. They are among the longest-held political prisoners in the world. In February of this year, another Puerto Rican patriot, Avelino González, was arrested by the FBI, and denied the right to bail. He remains locked up in a U.S. prison in Hartford, Connecticut, awaiting trial because of his actions in support of independence.  
Cuban Five
The arrests and harassment of Puerto Rican independentistas are also part of the U.S. government’s trampling of political rights here in the United States. In September, five working-class fighters known worldwide as the Cuban Five will have spent one decade in U.S. prisons. Serving outrageous sentences of up to life in prison, they were framed up on charges of “conspiracy to commit espionage” and other so-called “conspiracy” charges. What was their real “crime?” Fighting to defend their country, Cuba, against murderous attacks by right-wing groups that operate on U.S. soil with Washington’s complicity. We say: free the Cuban Five now!

Puerto Rico’s colonial domination reinforces systematic discrimination, racist prejudice, and cop brutality against the 2.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States, along with Blacks and other oppressed nationalities. As long as Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony, Puerto Ricans will be subjected to second-class status here.

Puerto Ricans in the United States are overwhelmingly workers. They face the U.S. employers’ escalating assaults today on the wages, jobs, working conditions, and political rights of tens of millions of working people in this country.

Mr. Chairman, as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president of the United States, I have had the opportunity to travel around the country and be part of the resistance by working people to these assaults. This resistance includes protests by independent truckers in response to the squeeze of skyrocketing fuel costs. It includes the one-day strike last Monday by construction workers in Las Vegas, who walked off the job to protest the murderous speedup that has led to 11 workers being killed in construction sites there in the last year and a half. They are the same conditions that recently led to the deaths of two more construction workers in a crane collapse, just a few blocks away from this building in New York City.  
Legalize all immigrants now
I have had the opportunity to be part of the mass working-class protests that have taken place around the United States to demand “Legalization of all immigrants now! and Stop the raids and deportations! Millions have taken to the streets over the past two years on May Day.

In recent weeks, workers in Iowa have protested factory raids by immigration cops, who have arrested and sentenced hundreds of meatpacking workers to jail. Their response is, “We are workers, not criminals!” This resistance by immigrant workers has become the biggest obstacle to the U.S. rulers’ antilabor attacks— and the most important aid to the Puerto Rican people’s struggle for self-determination.

The U.S. rulers have the arrogance to tell the people of Puerto Rico that they can not survive on their own, that independence will bring them ruin. But the living example by the Cuban workers and farmers and their revolutionary leadership shatters that myth. Cuba’s socialist revolution shows that by taking political power, it is possible to win genuine independence from U.S. imperialism. Cuba provides an example for working people everywhere—including right here in the United States.

The condemnation by this committee of Washington’s colonial rule of Puerto Rico will serve the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States and of those fighting everywhere for self-determination and against oppression.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, for the opportunity to present these views before you today.
Related articles:
Puerto Rican independence fighters denounce colonial rule  
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