In 1898, US troops defeated the armies of Spain in the first inter-imperialist war of the modern era. US troops landed in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam – colonies of Spain until then.
The people of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines had been waging a war for independence against the Spanish colonizers. José Martí, the Cuban revolutionary leader and founder of the Revolutionary Party in Cuba and Puerto Rico, had warned against the danger of domination by the rising imperialist power of Washington.
As it turned out, Marti was correct. The people of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the other former Spanish colonies that had fallen under Washington’s control, were cheated out of their independence. Cuba was independent in name only while the sister island of Puerto Rico became a direct colony.
In 1959 Cuba’s workers and farmers overthrew the US backed Batista dictatorship. This was the culmination of a revolutionary struggle begun and led by Fidel Castro in 1953. At first hundreds, then thousands and then millions of youth, workers and peasants moved into the center stage of history. They overthrew the Batista dictatorship and embarked on the road to construct a new society based on solidarity – a socialist society. Cuba became the first free territory of the Americas.
Despite the so called “Commonwealth Association” status established in 1952, Puerto Rico has remained a colony under the control of the US. Puerto Rican militants of the independence cause, such as Pedro Albizu Campos, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Oscar López Rivera, were tried as terrorists and served long prison sentences in the brutal US penal system, while thousands of the island’s youth were sent as cannon fodder in imperialist wars in Viet Nam and other parts of the world.
In 2017, Cuba and Puerto Rico were hit by monster hurricanes, Cuba by Irma and Puerto Rico by Maria. The divergent response to and the social consequences of the hurricanes point to what it means to be a colony of the US under direct exploitation and oppression by the ruling rich in the US.
In Cuba, millions of people were evacuated in an organized fashion. They were housed, fed and cared for. Ten people died. Once the hurricane passed, people were returned to their homes. Electricity was restored within days and reconstruction immediately begun. Within a few weeks people’s lives returned to normal. No one was left abandoned and alone.
In Puerto Rico people were abandoned to their fate. Thousands died. Electricity to this day is lacking in many of the poorer rural and urban areas. Reconstruction by the government in Washington has been given through a dropper. People remain homeless, many school-less and without aid almost a year after the event. The “Junta” appointed by Washington and effectively ruling Puerto Rico has prioritized debt repayment to US financial institutions rather than schools and hospitals. Puerto Rico has a foreign debt of $ 74 billion. The thousands of deaths on the heels of Hurricane Maria are among the most recent crimes that must be placed at the doorstep of the rulers in Washington.
Cuba and Puerto Rico began the struggle for independence side by side as sister peoples. Cuba has advanced towards independence and social justice. Puerto Rico has no sovereignty and has its blood sucked by US financial interests. Since 1898 Puerto Rico has been a US colony. There can be no real progress for the people of Puerto Rico as long as they have no sovereignty. But we call for genuine sovereignty free of economic, political and military pressure and intervention by the rulers in Washington. Puerto Ricans should decide their own fate. Self-determination for Puerto Rico!
October 12, 2018
José Martí Cultural Association – Solidarity with Cuba.
Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος «Χοσέ Μαρτί»
Asociación Cultural José Martí – Grecia