The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 25           July 6, 2004  
Socialist backs Puerto Rican independence
The following statement was presented June 14 by Nicole Sarmiento on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialists to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization. Sarmiento was among 22 individuals and representatives of organizations who testified on the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Sarmiento is a member of the Young Socialists in Miami and the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida. Subheadings are by the Militant.

Dear Mr. Chairman and committee members:

I join with others here celebrating one year since the U.S. Navy was forced to withdraw from Vieques. This was a victory in the struggle against U.S. colonial rule over Puerto Rico.

It is testimony to the tenacity and courage of Puerto Rican workers, farmers, fisherman, students, and others who fought for six decades to get the U.S. military out of Vieques. It is an example to all those around the world fighting against exploitation and imperialist domination, including inside the United States.

Today, I join with others here to demand that the U.S. government release all those who remain in U.S. prisons for having exercised their right to fight to get the U.S. Navy out of Vieques, and that Washington, which polluted the island, carry out a thorough decontamination of the territory.

Washington’s continued defiance of the will of the Puerto Rican people with respect to these struggles highlights one fact above all: that Puerto Rico is a U.S. colony.

There is no single “United States” as the U.S. rulers would make us believe. This is a class-divided country: “their” America of the ruling billionaire families, on one hand, and “our” America of workers and farmers. These classes have irreconcilable interests.

It is only in the interests of the ruling rich of this country to keep Puerto Rico a colony—it is they who profit from the systematic exploitation and colonial domination of Puerto Rico. It is they who benefit from exploiting the land, labor, and natural resources of Puerto Rico.

Working people in the United States have absolutely no interest in Washington’s colonial rule over Puerto Rico. On the contrary, the people of Puerto Rico and working people in the United States face a common enemy: the U.S. billionaire class, its government, and its twin parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

This is why the Socialist Workers Party has championed the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico since its founding in 1938. The Young Socialists follows in this proud tradition.  
Freedom and democracy for whom?
The U.S. rulers claim to stand for “human rights,” “peace,” “democracy,” and “freedom.” But we must ask: Human rights for whom? Peace for whom? Democracy for whom? Freedom for whom? Only for their class.

Today we are seeing the revelations about the torture and humiliation of Iraqis carried out by the U.S. occupation forces. These crimes are not a fluke. They show the true face of U.S. imperialism.

In fact, the torture of Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. military is simply an extension of what the U.S. rulers do at home every day: the brutality and humiliation carried out against prisoners inside the United States. With 2 million men and women behind bars today, Washington is the number one jailer in the world.

The U.S. government is carrying out similar degradation and abuse against hundreds of men and boys locked up in the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba—land occupied against the will of the Cuban people.

The imperialist occupation of Iraq is simply part of the efforts by Washington and its rivals in Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, and Tokyo to redivide the world—which began well before Sept. 11, 2001. To reverse their economic crisis and the decline of the imperialist order, they are driven to more and more wars of plunder: from the military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the U.S. military threats against Korea and Iran, to Washington’s aggressive policies toward Venezuela and Cuba.

Puerto Rico has been used as a springboard by the U.S. rulers to prepare its imperialist wars abroad—from the invasion of Grenada in 1983, to the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, and the invasion of Iraq last year. Puerto Rican youth are used as cannon fodder in these wars of exploitation.

Colonial domination of Puerto Rico reinforces the systematic discrimination and racist prejudice that 2.7 million Puerto Ricans face in this country, along with Blacks, Chicanos, and other oppressed nationalities. As long as Puerto Rico remains a colony, Puerto Ricans will face being treated as second-class citizens.

The “war on terror” abroad—the banner under which Washington wages its imperialist assaults around the world—has its domestic counterpart: the war on workers and farmers inside the United States, carried out in the name of “homeland defense.”

For example, the so-called “9/11” hearings by the U.S. Congress simply served as a platform to promote the Democratic-Republican campaign to increase the powers of the FBI and other political police agencies to spy on, harass, and frame up workers who fight the employers, or those who oppose U.S. government policies. For decades, Puerto Rican independence fighters have been smeared as “terrorists” in order to justify U.S. government attacks on them.

I join in celebrating the victory won with the recent release of the Puerto Rican patriot Juan Segarra Palmer. But four Puerto Rican political prisoners remain locked up in U.S. prisons—Oscar López Rivera, Haydée Beltrán, Carlos Alberto Torres, and Antonio Camacho Negrón. Some of them have spent nearly a quarter century in jail—among the longest-held political prisoners in the world. I add my voice to others here to demand: Release them now!

Today the drive by the U.S. employers and their government to cut back the wages, working conditions, and rights of workers and farmers in this country is meeting resistance. Near where I live in Miami, workers at Point Blank Body Armor, a garment factory that manufactures bulletproof vests for the police and the U.S. military, waged a two-year struggle against intolerable conditions and for a union. Recently these workers, a number of whom are Puerto Rican, finally won recognition of their union.

Coal miners at the Co-Op mine in central Utah have remained on strike for nearly nine months to win recognition of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at their mine. Their fight has won increasing respect and support from the labor movement around the country.

And there is also resistance to the day-to-day reality of police brutality, including the factory raids and roundups by the immigration police. Recently, in another victory, Farouk Abdel-Muhti, an advocate of the right of Palestinian self-determination, was released after spending two years in U.S. jails without charges.

I join with my brothers and sisters here who demand the release of the five Cuban revolutionaries who have been framed up by the U.S. government on charges of “conspiring to commit espionage.” Their “crime” was gathering information about ultrarightist Cuban-American groups that have a long record of launching violent attacks against Cuba from U.S. territory, with the knowledge and complicity of Washington.

Mr. Chairman, in face of living and job conditions that are deteriorating for the majority, the U.S. rulers, who live off the labor and resources of millions around the world, have the arrogance to tell the Puerto Rican people that they cannot survive on their own, that independence would only bring them ruin.  
Example of revolutionary Cuba
But the living example given by the workers and farmers of Cuba, and their revolutionary leadership, proves this to be a lie. Revolutionary Cuba, first free territory of the Americas, shows that by making a socialist revolution it is possible to fight and win genuine independence from U.S. imperialism.

Cuba has consistently championed Puerto Rico’s fight for independence. A free Puerto Rico would be able to count on the unconditional, selfless solidarity of revolutionary Cuba.

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 those fighting everywhere for the right to self-determination and against oppression.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, for the opportunity to present these views before you today.
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