Puerto Fears School Privatization After Hurricane

Damaged amaged classroom in a school in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on October 2, 2017.

By Aída Chávez and Rachel M. Cohen for the Intercept. As Hurricane Maria departed Puerto Rico, leaving utter ruin in its wake, one community in Vieques picked itself out of the wreckage by focusing on getting school back open. “The community took out of their own time and said, ‘Let’s do this, we need to repair and reopen this,’ and we started working,” Josuan Aloyo told The Intercept in Spanish. “Cleaning out the trash and debris, and trying to find people that had the proper tools.” Right after the hurricane, Escuela Adrienne Serrano had 40 students, a number that steadily increased each week until they managed to bring 80 students back. But then, on October 18, Humacao School District’s regional director told Escuela Adrienne Serrano to suspend classes. The guerrilla campaign to open schools is running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model.

Puerto Rican Teachers Occupy Education Secretary's Office

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By Fight Back News. San Juan, Puerto Rico – In an escalation in their fight to stop the government from closing or privatizing public schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation occupied Education Secretary Julia Keleher’s office Nov. 7 in an act of civil disobedience. 21 teachers were arrested standing up in defense of public education in Puerto Rico. All 21 teachers were released late the night of Nov. 7. In a press conference the morning of Nov. 8, the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation called on school communities to intensify the struggle to demand that their schools be reopened.

A People’s Recovery: Radical Organizing In Post-Maria Puerto Rico

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By Juan Carlos Davila for The Indypendent – SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — After Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, most telecommunications services collapsed, particularly cell phones and internet providers. People struggled for days to contact their loved ones, and although there have been some improvements, making a call, sending a text message, and connecting to the Internet is still a challenge in most areas. Only certain analog and satellite telephones managed to survive the category-four hurricane, and the landline of Cucina 135, a community center located next to San Juan’s financial center, was one of them. “Having a phone line was an invaluable resource,” said Luis Cedeño, spokesperson for El Llamado, an organization focused on providing support and unifying social movements in Puerto Rico. El Llamado (The Call) is supported by the Center for Popular Democracy and is led by a group of organizers from different sectors, including artists, communicators, social workers and student leaders. The second day after the hurricane, El Llamado began calling Puerto Ricans in the diaspora from the landline of Cucina 135 to organize relief efforts independent of government agencies or big NGOs like the Red Cross. Cucina 135 is based in a small house that has been converted into a communal kitchen and meeting space.

Solidarity In Action: Puerto Rico Relief Efforts Underway In New York

A woman holds a black Puerto Rican flag during a rally in Union Square this October. Credit: Dean Patterson.

By Leninz Nadal for The Indypendent – I grew up in the Lower East Side as a Nuyorican, and this has been a really emotional experience. My extended family lives in the municipalities of Loíza and Carolina in the northeast of Puerto Rico. They do not have power. We spent a lot of time trying to find them. It’s hard to know that my family is in this urgent, desperate situation, and at the same time, I also feel disconnected. There is a lot of guilt and feeling like we can never really do enough. The Trump administration’s mistreatment and lack of knowledge is infuriating. It is so callous. I’ve been really inspired by the Nuyorican and Puerto Rican diaspora coming together. It makes me hopeful that we have a strong resilient foundation. We had a healing space at UPROSE where a lot of people came and were able to grieve and also plan our next steps together. We communicate regularly with folks on the island and are organizing to send sustainable supplies. The groups we are working with are asking about bicycles, quality soil, non-GMO seeds, water supplies and solar panels so Puerto Rico can move toward economic sovereignty. On Oct. 11 we held a rally at Union Square as a part of a national day of action for a just recovery. The following day we sent supplies down with bikes and generators. What we really want is a just recovery for Puerto Rico. We don’t want investment capitalists to further a plan that prioritizes their corporate interests. We want the communities that have been directly affected to determine what needs to be done for Puerto Rico.

Newsletter - Mobilize For System Change

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Decades of neo-liberal economic policies in the United States and debt, which is required by the bottom 90% to survive, have fanned political unrest and the call for revolution, rather than reform. Just as Obama and the Democrat’s populist façade disintegrated under a growing wealth divide, worsening climate change and militarization of our communities and woke many self-described progressives up to the need for systemic changes, the Trump presidency could have similar effects on conservatives. Voters who thought they were ending the status quo, “draining the swamp,” by voting for Trump may find that loss of health care, trade deals that drive a race to the bottom and tax cuts for the wealthy move them to be open to solutions they may have once rejected.

How To Erase Puerto Rico’s Debt Without Hurting Mom And Pop

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By Ellen Brown for Web of Debt. During his visit to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump shocked the bond market when he told Geraldo Rivera of Fox News that he was going to wipe out the island’s bond debt. How did the president plan to pull this off? Pam Martens and Russ Martens, writing in Wall Street on Parade, note that the U.S. municipal bond market holds $3.8 trillion in debt, and it is not just owned by Wall Street banks. Mom and pop retail investors are exposed to billions of dollars of potential losses through their holdings of Puerto Rican municipal bonds, either directly or in mutual funds.

A Tale Of Two Islands

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By Vijay Prashad of Frontline – HURRICANES DEVELOP IN THE ATLANTIC Ocean and move across the cold water towards the warmer sea of the Caribbean. All that energy journeys, picking up steam, driving forward with immense force. This September, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria thrust themselves into the Caribbean and devastated many of its islands as well as the coastline of the United States and Central America. One meteorologist, Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, suggested that this September was the most deadly hurricane month since 1893. Changes in the world’s climate, scientists suggest, have made these Atlantic cyclones much more powerful than before. Warming waters increases the ability of the storms to draw in water vapour and to engorge themselves with more energy. These devastatingly formidable storms then drag the rising waters to produce dangerous storm surges that beat against coastlines and produce large-scale flooding. Hurricane Irma, which arrived in the Caribbean Sea in early September, destroyed many of the small islands such as Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda and St. Martin. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said that Barbuda, which housed short of 2,000 people, had become “barely habitable”.

More Trouble Ahead: Puerto Rico's Impending Medicaid Crisis

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By Lara Merling and Jake Johnston for CEPR – Already in the midst of a fiscal crisis, Puerto Rico faces a long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria, a devastating storm it was ill-equipped to handle. The urgent efforts to address both the humanitarian needs and damage caused by the storm must also extend to solving the island’s imminent Medicaid crisis, a preexisting condition that plagued Puerto Rico before the hurricane and that has been exacerbated by it. This paper examines the inadequate federal support received by Puerto Rico for its Medicaid program, and shows that ― barring immediate action from the US Congress ― the territory will not have sufficient funds to continue operating in 2018. While the cost of living is higher in Puerto Rico than the US average, health care services are the only item that is significantly less costly on the island. Using 2016 Medicaid costs and looking at known migration patterns, we calculate what the federal government and states are likely to pay for providing Medicaid for Puerto Ricans moving to US states from 2018 to 2027 using two different migration scenarios.

How The Vietnam War Prepared Puerto Ricans To Confront Crisis

Members of Movimiento Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico picket the White House in March of 1965. (Claridad / Biblioteca Digital UPR Río Piedras)

By Michael Stewart Foley for Waging Nonviolence – This week, as Puerto Ricans feel once again like a White House afterthought, it is hard not to conclude that Puerto Rico matters to Washington only when mainland political and business leaders need to conscript the island itself for some larger financial or military purpose. Consider the impact of Vietnam War policy on Puerto Rico. Thanks to a new Ken Burns documentary and Hurricane Maria, the headlines have us talking simultaneously about Vietnam and Puerto Rico for the first time in 50 years. Today, few Americans remember the impact of the Vietnam War on Puerto Rico. Yet the war struck the island with the force of a political hurricane, tearing at Puerto Rico’s social fabric, raising the same questions of colonialism that are again in the news in the wake of Maria, and fueling its independence movement. Not unlike Puerto Rico’s recent fiscal crisis, the Vietnam War brought into sharp relief the island’s unequal status as a territory of the United States, particularly after President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in 1965. Draft-age men in Puerto Rico were subject to the Selective Service Act and called for induction into the U.S. military — even though they had no representative in the Congress that passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution…

Puerto Rico Considering Returning Power Through Renewable Microgrids

A car drives under tilted power line poles in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Oct. 2, 2017.

By Brad Jones in Fururism. Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló proposed the idea of switching the island over to a microgrid system. This would localize the production of electricity to smaller regions, each of which would be powered by a small-scale power plant, such as a compact solar array or a few wind turbines. Some microgrids are connected to one another by transmission lines, but this is not necessary. “We can start dividing Puerto Rico into different regions…and then start developing microgrids,” said the governor, according to a report from Yahoo News. “That’s not going to solve the problem, but it’s certainly going to start lighting up Puerto Rico much quicker.” One German energy-storage company, Sonnen GmbH, is already donating microgrid systems that could get the process started. Working with local company Pura Energia, which hooks its solar panels to Sonnen’s batteries, Sonnen is providing microgrids to 15 storm-ravaged centers on the island, and expects demand for additional systems on the island to rise. If it does, the company plans to donate the profits from local sales to build up to 35 more microgrids on Puerto Rico.

While Outrage Mounts Over Puerto Rico…

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By Whitney Webb for Mintpress News. San Juan, Puerto Rico – Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory – which rarely garners much attention from the national media – has received widespread coverage which has focused on the Trump administration’s slow response to the disaster. The situation in Puerto Rico is undoubtedly dire, as many struggle without power and access to basic necessities more than a week after the storm struck. In addition, the Trump administration’s response has been notably lackluster in several regards, which has brought renewed scrutiny to its attitudes and performance.

Demonstrations Show Solidarity With Puerto Rico, Protest Trump

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By Staff of Answer Coalition – The Trump administration’s criminally insufficient response to the crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria has caused huge suffering. Below are photos from some of the demonstrations that were held across the country on October 3 to coincide with Trump’s visit to the island. We demand a cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt, and are in solidarity with those fighting for independence and an end to U.S. colonial rule!

New Yorkers Picket Trump Tower In Support Of Puerto Rico

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By Ashoka Jegroo for Waging Nonviolence – A crowd of about a hundred protesters picketed outside of Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday in support of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, while also protesting colonialism and the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. The protest occurred on the same day as President Trump’s first trip to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island two weeks ago. “We’re here denouncing not only Trump’s visit to the island. We’re denouncing what’s going on right now and how politicians from both parties are using Puerto Rico as a ping pong ball. They are not helping my country,” said Norma Perez of Call to Action On Puerto Rico. “Also we want to denounce the payment of [Puerto Rico’s] debt. This is not the time to pay any debt. Just take the debt with you, allow us to be free, and we can move on and be an independent country without the colonialism, without everything they are imposing on us in Puerto Rico.” The protesters, many of whom were Puerto Ricans from the island or the diaspora, demanded an end to the Jones Act, a law imposed by the United States in 1920 that only allows U.S. ships to deliver goods to the island.

Vulture Capitalists Circle Above Puerto Rican Prey

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By Bill Moyers for Moyers and Company – As people in Puerto Rico are dying and President Trump lashes out at San Juan’s mayor, Bill talks with social anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla about the challenges Puerto Ricans face in the wake of the storm. Puerto Rico is devastated. Two hurricanes plunged the island into darkness and despair. Crops perish in the fields. The landscape of ruined buildings and towns resemble Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on it. Over 3 million people are desperate for food, water, electricity and shelter. After a slow start, the Trump administration is now speeding up the flow of supplies to the island. A top US general has been given command of the relief efforts. And, like so many others, Yarimar Bonilla watches with a broken heart as her native Puerto Rico struggles. This noted social anthropologist — a scholar on Caribbean societies — says the hurricanes have made an already bad fiscal and economic crisis worse, and she sees darker times ahead unless major changes are made in the structure of power and in Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. Last night on NBC, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz made a spontaneous statement expressing her frustration with insufficient relief efforts that went viral. Before you read my interview with Yarimar Bonilla please take two minutes to watch this video.

Puerto Rico Needs More Hurricane Relief Now ― And New Deal With Debt Relief

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By Mark Weisbrot for Buzz Feed News – More than 40 percent of Puerto Rico is without clean water, and the vast majority has no electricity. Many hospitals and operating rooms are not functioning, and the threat of a public health crisis looms. On Wednesday, 145 members of Congress took the unusual step of writing to President Trump and asking for more Department of Defense resources to be immediately deployed. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, and Puerto Rico is legally entitled to the same federal relief and reconstruction aid as Texas or Florida. But Puerto Rico is also an “unincorporated territory” of the United States ― or, as many would say, a colony. Although Puerto Ricans can be drafted to serve in the US military, and are subject to other obligations of US citizenship, they do not have voting representation in the US Congress. Therein lies the problem: Puerto Rico’s political status not only prevents these US citizens from securing their legal rights, but even worse, it allows them to be treated very badly, over and over again, and not have the sovereignty to chart a different course. That different course is desperately needed, because if Puerto Rico is to have a future, it will need a whole new economic plan that allows it to recover. This would include, at a minimum, the cancellation of most of its debt, which is not going to be paid in any case.