At this year’s convention, the NLG International Committee Americas Task Force made the important decision to reinitiate its work around Puerto Rico in the future. The decision came after a presentation by Judith Berkan, longtime Guild member and resident of Puerto Rico, supported by Jan Susler, also a longtime Guild member who lived many years on the island, urging us to understand Puerto Rico as a Latin American nation, illegally occupied by the United States.
Past NLG Work on Puerto Rico
The Americas Task Force meeting was attended by folks who could be fairly grouped into two… and rather than characterize them as “old” and “young,” we’ll call them “been around the Guild forever” and “new to the Guild”… but both benefitted from the recounting by both Judith and Jan about the history of the Guild’s relationship with the Puerto Rican independence movement, from the its early work with the fervent solidarity network in the 70’s, the Guild’s Puerto Rico Project (which Judith herself worked in as staff counsel), defense of those subpoenaed to grand juries investigating the independence movement, the work in Vieques with the movement to oust the U.S. Navy’s occupation of the small island, and the campaign for the release of the Nationalist Party political prisoners.
The presentation covered the period from the 70’s to the present, mentioning the advocacy around the next generation of political prisoners (some of whom are still in prison after serving 28 years), the anti-Navy and anti-military protests in Vieques, and collaborating with the independence movement in international forums including the annual U.N. Decolonization Committee hearings.
Two recent phenomena highlighted the current situation: one, the FBI’s 2005 assassination of clandestine independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos and the impunity it continues to enjoy as it escalates its attacks on the independence movement and journalists who cover its activities; and two, the U.S. and FBI’s simultaneous increasing penetration into the daily affairs of the nation, designed to leave the impression that the colonized have made such a mess of their corrupt and terrorist ridden country that the father figure of a colonizer must come clean up the mess, and save the colonized from themselves… when what the U.S. and FBI are doing, in fact, is trying to divert attention from its own crimes against Filiberto Ojeda and the Puerto Rican people.
Suggestions for Future Work
Both Jan and Judith emphasized the importance of work which the Task Force could take on begininng with self-education among the Americas Task Force, which International Committee chair Susan Scott said could start with posting articles on the International Committee’s website and circulating news on the listserv.
Other concrete suggestions offered: support the campaign for the release of the political prisoners; continue our presence in international fora; work with independentistas being subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, NY (as several Guild members are already doing); assist with efforts to identify the FBI agents who killed Filiberto Ojeda and have targeted other independentistas and attacked Puerto Rican journalists and demand accountability for these actions, and participate with efforts of the people of Vieques to get the U.S. to clean up the contamination left by the U.S. Navy.
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For more information, contact Judith Berkan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jan Susler (email@example.com).