The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) issued a statement concerning the natural disaster in Puerto Rico.
ICP, 2 October 2017
The Party for Socialism and Liberation expressed its condolences to the Puerto Rican people and declared that the members of the Party would continue to assist the people with material support. It said, 'From inside the United States we are helping to build movement against all U.S. colonial barriers (not just the Jones Act), for the cancellation of the Wall Street-controlled debt and crushing austerity, and to demand unconditional funding and action to rebuild roads, the power grid, and other infrastructure to be put under the control of the Puerto Rican people, and without privatization.'
President Donald Trump had issued 'a mere 10-day waiver of the archaic colonial maritime laws that are blocking the arrival of necessary and life-saving aid to the island'. According to the statement, the Jones Act restricts Puerto Rico from receiving direct aid/import from foreign nations. Not only does it slow aid from getting in, it doubles the cost of getting it on to the island. Countries like Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela have offered tons of aid and medical support but either have been turned away by the U.S. or deterred from getting the aid in because of the Jones Act, and the U.S. blockade against Cuba.
The Hurricane Maria made a direct impact on Puerto Rico, completely destroying the power grid, destroying nearly 80 percent of all agriculture, severly damaging almost all non-concrete structures near the eye of the storm and leaving nearly 50 percent of the island without clean water. Adding to the disastrous storm, the situation for the people of Puerto Rico got worse because 'the colonial government was ill-prepared to meet the needs of the people, the infrastructure was non-existent to deal with such a disaster and now the U.S. government and its colonial laws are delaying and obstructing necessary relief from reaching the island'.
The statement of the PSL reported the situation as follows:
'There are reports of dozens of deaths. Many people are still reported missing and communication throughout most of the island is still very poor, so families can’t connect with their loved ones. Food supplies are running low, forcing people to eat rotting food. Elderly and sick people are not receiving the care needed and the generators are not powering the hospitals, so people are dying or at risk of dying soon. There are over 25 illegal sites with hazardous and toxic waste throughout the island, which has now undoubtedly spread across the nation due to the storms and flooding. The island is seeing record high temperatures and the insect population is growing rapidly. Back-up generators are limited and gas supply even more so. Infrastructure is continuing to fail including the Guajataca Dam in the northwest of the island putting 70,000 lives at risk.'
The PSL posed questions regarding the obstructions that prevent the necessary aid to be sent to the island and said, 'All these questions can be tied to the fundamental issue of the United States colonial rule over the nation of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican politicians and officials are powerless in the situation because every ounce of aid, every emergency support personnel on the island, all distribution of medical and electrical support has to be first cleared by Washington D.C., regardless of what is happening on the ground.'
Regarding Trump's expressions concerning the priority to resolve the debt crisis, the PSL underlined that 'The Puerto Rican people do not owe a debt to the U.S. government but rather are due reparations for 120 years of colonial rule and strangulation of their nation’s freedom and growth.' The PSL called for an immediate cancellation of the illegitimate $75 billion debt, saying 'That the capitalist banks and government would even think to extract such a cost from a colonized island, now dealing with a severe humanitarian and infrastructure crisis, is stunning. They would rather push a whole people into unfathomable misery than lose out on a buck.'
The statement reminded that 'under capitalism, natural disasters are only heightened by the highly unnatural disaster that is the profit-system'. As it had happened after Hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans, Louisiana back in 2005, this time in Puerto Rico capitalists are expected to speed up 'privatizing more land and industry than ever before, displacing poor and working people from their land', as opposed to Cuba where the social system enables it to rebuild the damaged parts of the country 'as a sovereign nation, by drawing on international assistance but without foreign investors taking over like vultures'.
While the PSL members are currently fundraising and collecting relief materials in El Barrio (New York City) and in Florida, they also join the initiative demanding a full repeal of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, a cancellation of the U.S. constructed debt, for massive U.S. government recovery funds without strings attached and solidarity aid from international supporters to be allowed into the island unimpeded as a first step towards the reparations long owed. The statement of the PSL ended with the slogan 'Long live a Free Puerto Rico!'