THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
BLOG POSTS

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UN to US: Free Puerto Rico.

All Americans need to understand what Puerto Rico's colonial status is and what the people there want, if we're truly invested in spreading Democracy. To do so in Afghanistan we've been at war longer than any other time in our nation's history - and when can we really begin to expect to draw down? What will it have cost us? Look at who is paying the highest price.

Puerto Rico doesn't require a war, the slaughter of thousands and tens of thousands, an occupation force engaged in guerilla warfare, a massive multi-year rebuilding of their political, social, physical and technological infrastructure, generations of retaliatory terrorism on both sides, or any of that. All they basically require is an act of Congress, signed by the president, setting them free.

At the end of this draft resolution (which is hardly the beginning of the larger document) it refers to the Puerto Rican political prisoners being held by the US; men who have spent much of their lives in maximum security American prisons because they fought for their own people's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are the very kind of men that our military tries to recruit - they just carry a different flag.

29 years. That's a long time to be a POW.

End the war on Puerto Rico. Send the Freedom Fighters home. Free the people and the land. Hit the Pro Libertad site and show the cause some support. Read on for the UN's position on American colonialism...

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21 June 2010
General Assembly
GA/COL/3209

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on Decolonization

5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)


Special Committee on Decolonization Passes Text Urging General Assembly to Consider Formally Situation Concerning Puerto Rico


Draft Resolution Calls on United States to Expedite Island’s Self-Determination


The Special Committee on Decolonization today approved a draft resolution calling on the Government of the United States to expedite a process that would allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise fully their right to self-determination and independence, and for the General Assembly formally to consider the situation concerning Puerto Rico, which the world body had not formally taken up since the Territory’s removal from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 1953.


Pleading their case before the Special Committee — known also as the Special Committee of 24 or officially as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — more than 30 petitioners called on the international community to recognize the Territory’s colonial status, and forboth the United Nations and the United States to acknowledge the Puerto Rico Constitutional Assembly as a valid procedural mechanism for decolonization.


As explained in the relevant report of the Special Committee, the United States considered the island to have decided freely and democratically to enter into free association with it, and was therefore beyond the purview of United Nations consideration. With Puerto Rico’s removal from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, a representative of the United States to the United Nations had indicated orally that changes in the relationship could be made through mutual consent.


However, a majority of petitioners expressed dissatisfaction today with the commonwealth’s treatment by the United States, arguing that the administering Power was hampering Puerto Rican decolonization initiatives and those of civil society. While many praised the Special Committee for having approved numerous draft resolutions urging action by the United States, they rued the fact that the General Assembly had yet to open a debate on the situation concerning Puerto Rico, which had allowed the United States to continue acting as a colonizing Power over a country with its own cultural identity.


Cuba’s representative, who tabled the draft resolution, noted that the Special Committee had already approved 28 texts on Puerto Rico in the span of 30 years, to little effect. Action on Puerto Rico’s status should be based on decolonization alternatives enshrined in international law, he emphasized, echoing the sentiment of many other speakers.


One petitioner, a representative of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, expressed deep opposition to plebiscites that asked the people to consider, among its many options, the choice of prolonging colonialism, in contravention of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Like others, he appealed to the Special Committee to persuade the General Assembly to open its doors on the situation concerning Puerto Rico, and to the United Nations to generate international pressure to help the island’s decolonization.


Offering evidence of various forms of discrimination practised by the United States against Puerto Rico, several speakers drew parallels between the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the kind of environmental and social abuse their island faced at the hands of “imperial power”. For example, the military invasion by the United States had led to the pollution of hundreds of acres of land with toxic waste, one petitioner said. Just as President Barack Obama required the oil company BP to take responsibility for the damage it had caused, the United States Government must do the same in Puerto Rico by acknowledging the commonwealth’s Charter and recognizing its right to self-determination.


He went on to say that imperialism had destroyed the island’s once-thriving economy, noting that the unemployment rate currently stood at 17 per cent, while 48 per cent of its citizens relied on federal welfare and 67 per cent lived below the poverty line. Given its deteriorating agriculture sector, Puerto Rico had become completely dependent, currently importing 85 per cent of its necessities from the United States.


Several petitioners also praised the victorious outcome of a massive student strike in Puerto Rico, which had succeeded in fighting off attempts by the University of Puerto Rico to cut back financial aid and increase the cost of education. The way in which the students had deliberated, exchanged views and posed their arguments was a good model to bring forth independence, one youth representative said.


The Special Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 22 June, when it is expected to hear petitioners from Western Sahara and New Caledonia, and to action on draft resolutions relating to those two Territories. It was also expected to take up an “omnibus” resolution covering 11 Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to consider a report on the Special Committee decision of 15 June 2009 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/64/L.4), and a related draft resolution (document A/AC.109/64/L.8).


Presented by the Rapporteur, the report states that the island Territory has commonwealth status, with the United States Congress holding plenary power over Puerto Rico, which is vested with local authority over designated areas. The Territory is represented in the United States Government by a Resident Commissioner, who is a non-voting member of the House of Representatives, but a voting member of any committees on which he or she sits. United States citizenship is granted to people born in Puerto Rico, but they do not have the right to vote in presidential or congressional elections unless they reside on the mainland.


According to the report, the United States has maintained since 1953 that Puerto Rico decided freely and democratically to enter into free association with it and is therefore beyond the purview of United Nations consideration. The representative of the United States to the United Nations at the time indicated orally that changes in the relationship could be made through mutual consent, yet as recently as June 2008, the then Governor of Puerto Rico denounced this reality during hearings of the Special Committee. In June 2009, the Special Committee held a meeting with organizations requesting to be heard on Puerto Rico, but did not submit a draft resolution on the issue to the Assembly.


The report says several plebiscites have been held to determine what Puerto Ricans think the island’s status should be, sometimes with controversial outcomes. According to a 1993 plebiscite, for example, 48.4 per cent wished to retain the status quo, with close to 46.2 per cent preferring statehood and 4 per cent wanting independence. In 1998, however, when a local political party introduced a “None of the above” option, 50.4 per cent of those voting supported it, prompting President Bill Clinton to create the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status in response. The Task Force recognized only three choices for Puerto Ricans: the status quo; statehood; or independence.


In May 2009, a bill titled “The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009” was tabled in Congress, which, if enacted, would provide for a choice between retaining the present political status or choosing a new one, the report says. If the first option prevailed, the question would be revisited in eight years. If the second option prevailed, another plebiscite would follow, presenting the options of statehood, independence, or independence in free association with the United States. In July 2009, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the draft bill, which was placed on the Union Calendar of the United States Congress in October 2009. The press in Puerto Rico reported widely that on 2 January 2009, President-elect Barack Obama sent a message to the swearing-in ceremony for Luis Fortuño, the new Governor of Puerto Rico, reiterating his intention to try and resolve the colonial case of Puerto Rico during his first term.


The report notes that apart from general political questions, three specific issues have been raised before the Special Committee in recent years: the United States military presence in Puerto Rico, particularly on the island of Vieques; the imprisonment in the United States of pro-independence Puerto Ricans accused of seditious conspiracy and weapons possession; and the application of the death penalty to Puerto Ricans convicted on federal charges. The issue of growing political persecution has also been raised.


On the western portion of Vieques, the United States Navy operated an ammunition facility until 1948, reactivating it in 1962 until its final closure in 2001, the report continues. The Navy also managed approximately 14,600 acres on the eastern portion of Vieques, where it detonated explosives. Unexploded ordnance and remnants of exploded ordnance containing hazardous substances have been identified there as well as in the surrounding waters.


The report states that in the 2007 lawsuit Sánchez v. United States, Vieques residents collectively seek health and property damages amounting to billions of dollars, claiming that the United States Navy was negligent in exposing the island’s 10,000-strong population to dangerous levels of toxins for more than 50 years, which led to a cancer rate 30 times higher than that of the rest of Puerto Rico, in addition to other long-term effects.


By the terms of the draft resolution on the Special Committee decision of 15 June 2009 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/64/L.8), the General Assembly would call upon the Government of the United States to expedite a process that will allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, in accordance and full compliance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and the resolutions and decisions of the Special Committee concerning Puerto Rico.


Referring to the use of Vieques Island for military exercises over 60 years, and noting the inhabitants’ complaints about the use of open burning for clean-up, the text would have the Assembly urge the United States Government to cover the costs of clean-up and decontamination, which should be carried out in ways that do not aggravate the health of island inhabitants or the environment.


Also by the draft, the Assembly would express serious concern about actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence fighters, and request the President of the United States to release Oscar Lopez Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres, imprisoned for more than 28 years, as well as Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, all Puerto Rican political prisoners serving sentences relating to the struggle for the Territory’s independence...

(That should give you the gist. For the complete document, visit the UN)

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