Here is an update and current image of Ana Belen Montes, after her release from prison … we share with you the only authorized statement she wanted to share and make public, sent through her lawyer Linda Backiel on Sunday, January 8, 2023.
In mid-September of this year, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm. Despite Category 1 being the mildest ranking, the damage was devastating, triggering an island-wide blackout and leaving more than 760,000 without clean water. After nearly a month since the storm, the reality on the ground is still grim. Officials estimate $172 million in damages to roads, excluding municipal roads, which are the majority. Around 900,000 Puerto Ricans have applied for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 59%, or three out of every five such applications have been approved. According to Manuel Laboy, the director of the Central Office of Recovery (COR3), FEMA has not approved any of the public assistance applications submitted by the 78 municipalities, 40 agencies and 57 non-profit organizations. FEMA itself has challenged this claim.
Puerto Rico is in dire need of fuel for generators as they deal with the devastation of Hurricane Fiona. But a ship carrying fuel has been idling offshore, unable to enter a port, because it’s Puerto Rico, where the Jones Act—requiring that all goods be brought in on a US-built ship, owned and crewed by US citizens, and flying the US flag—makes critical goods more expensive, or in this case, out of reach. (The White House has just announced it will temporarily waive the Jones Act.) Investment firms in mainland states can’t act as advisors to the government in the issue of bonds while at the same time marketing those bonds to investors—but they can in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, you can get tax breaks, including zero income tax on capital gains—unless, that is, you were born on the island. Only non–Puerto Ricans qualify. Puerto Ricans themselves are ineligible for Supplemental Security Income, even though they pay payroll taxes.
A network of mutual aid groups in Puerto Rico were quick to react when the island lost power on Sept. 18 before being hit by Hurricane Fiona. Nearly 750,000 people are still without power a week after the storm caused mass flooding, landslides and property damage. Mutual aid groups like the feminist community-based organization Taller Salud, the collective sustenance and solidarity group Brigada Solidaria del Oeste and LGBTQIA+ support group Waves Ahead have provided Puerto Rico residents with direct economic aid, as well as emergency essentials like first-aid kits, water filters, solar lamps, nonperishable food, toiletries and water purification devices. Puerto Rico’s infrastructure system had not yet recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and decimated the island’s health care, water and power systems.
The Police of the State of Puerto Rico, a dependent territory of the United States, dispersed Thursday night a demonstration of dozens of Puerto Ricans in Old San Juan, who were staging a protest against LUMA Energy due to the constant power outages. This is the most recent episode of the protests that have been shaking the Caribbean island for days, although it is the first one that culminated with a confrontation between demonstrators and police, and one person arrested. The Teachers Federation also joined Thursday night's protest, as did the president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Juan Dalmau. The demonstrations followed calls made last Monday by a group of legislators from the House of Representatives and social organizations to mobilize as a way to put pressure on the pro-U.S. Governor Pedro Pierluisi to cancel the contract granted to LUMA Energy.
The president of the Cuba Solidarity Committee (CSC) of Puerto Rico, Milagros Rivera, denounces the intimidation operation unleashed by federal agents through calls and visits to several activists of the Committee and members of the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade. Claiming that they were investigating the Cuba Solidarity Committee, they tried to find out details about the Committee’s spokesperson and the recent trip to Cuba by the Brigade under the category “various types of support for the Cuban people”. On its tour of the country, the brigade delivered sanitary donations to fight against COVID-19 in hospitals and engaged in cultural and educational exchanges with the people. Since early in the morning of Tuesday, August 23, agents who identified themselves as FBI agents visited over a dozen brigade members and friends in solidarity from different parts of the country, alleging an investigation against the CSC, its president, and the solidarity militancy.
Despite the harsh reality that Puerto Rico is neither free, nor associated, nor a state, July 25 marks the day of the creation of the constitution of the “Free Associated State,” or commonwealth, of Puerto Rico. I write this article with the purpose of revealing some details about the Anglo-Saxon-supremacist jurisprudence that gave rise to and govern this colonial territorial status. Before we travel back in time, let me point out that Section 2 of Article 3 of the United States constitution contains the Territorial Clause, which gives Congress the authority to fully regulate and dispose of US territories. Under this, the United States has total control over Puerto Rican territory. Let’s start with the slavery controversy elucidated in Dred Scott v. Sandford, dated 1856. Scott was a slave who lived in the Missouri Territory, but in Illinois he obtained his freedom – a legal status that Missouri did not recognize when Scott re-entered the territory.
Hundreds of people marched on Wednesday in Puerto Rico's capital San Juan to demand that the island's government cancel its contract with power grid operator LUMA Energy over chronic power outages and frequent rate hikes. Demonstrators including union leaders and community activists say LUMA has steadily increased power rates despite frequent outages including one in April that left more than one- third of the island in darkness. read more Protestors shouted slogans including "There goes LUMA, there goes LUMA with another increase" and "LUMA, a bunch of morons who burn substations." Power rates have gone up five times since LUMA began operating Puerto Rico's transmission and distribution system on June 1, 2020. The last rate hike, which took effect at the start of July, pushed rates up by 17.1%.
Teachers and government workers carried out a national day of strikes and protests in Puerto Rico Friday. There were marches and rallies across the US territory. A mass demonstration took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital city. The marchers demanded just wages and pensions and an end to the privatization of schools and government services. Despite a morning attempt by San Juan police to block a section of marchers, the protests were peaceful and high-spirited. In San Juan, in the early morning hours demonstrators began congregating in the Hiram Bithorn baseball stadium before marching toward the headquarters of the Fiscal Control and Supervision Agency. Among the many demonstrators were teachers, electricity and road workers, university professors and students.
In the last two weeks, teachers in both Puerto Rico and Minnesota have taken to the streets. Though separated by thousands of miles, and a temperature difference of about 60 degrees, their demands are in many ways very similar: Like the teachers who went on strike in 2018, they are marching for better pay, better benefits, and greater funding for schools. However, these struggles are taking place in a period very different from 2018. The pre-pandemic strike wave was driven by decades of austerity and rising rank-and-file militancy born of frustration with do-nothing labor bureaucrats. The pandemic has since galvanized workers even more, especially since rapidly rising inflation has significantly chipped away at already historically low wages.
Tens of thousands of teachers and other public workers have taken to the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico in a March of Indignation to protest a debt restructuring plan given the green light by Judge Taylor Swain of New York. Puerto Ricans call it the "Shakedown Plan" because it will enforce more austerity on a land where disinvestment in education and health care and privatization of the energy system have already caused great hardship. A National Strike has been called for February 18. Clearing the FOG speaks with Monisha Rios, a Puerto Rican social worker and psychologist, about who and what are behind the protests. Rios discusses the PROMESA, an act passed in Congress, that put a financial oversight board in charge of the islands and that has violated the rights of Puerto Ricans to have a say in what is happening.
“Puerto Rico received approval from a federal judge on Tuesday to leave bankruptcy under the largest public sector debt-restructuring deal in the history of the United States.” The executive director of the unelected Fiscal Oversight and Management Board declared it “truly a momentous day,” and a “new day for Puerto Rico.” How new, exactly, is the question of many who don’t see this debt deal as fundamentally changing the story for most Puerto Ricans, because that story has everything to do with the more than 100-year colonial relationship to the United States, and their enforced inability to determine their own economic future. Nor does it upend the notion that increased austerity is somehow, despite what you see, ultimately the way to shared prosperity and well-being.
On Wednesday, February 9, teachers across Puerto Rico called for a national strike to protest the government and the Fiscal Control Board’s (FCB) cutting of wages and pensions. Other public sector workers, namely firefighters and police, have also joined them. Teachers are demanding a decent salary, an end to pension cuts, and the resignation of Puerto Rican governor Pedro Pierluisi. Teachers have been protesting since February 4. That same day, the FCB imposed by the US Congress that has been in charge of Puerto Rico since 2016, was boasting because it supposedly already put the end of the bankruptcy process on track by approving a plan negotiated with the big bondholder funds.
Activists and Puerto Rican community members protest against Steven Tananbaum, a board member of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), for his involvement in a hedge fund that owns over $2 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt, outside of the newly renovated and reopened MOMA in Midtown Manhattan on October 21, 2019, in New York City. Drew Angerer / Getty Images On January 18, Judge Taylor Swain of New York’s Southern District confirmed Puerto Rico’s eighth amended Plan of Adjustment (POA), setting into motion the closure of the largest municipal debt restructuring deal in the history of the United States. The POA modifies approximately $33 billion of the central government’s debt as part of Title III — the bankruptcy-like process established under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) — which has already cost Puerto Ricans $1 billion.
The first student general assembly 2021-2022 at the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has announced an indefinite strike starting today, while other universities are on strike. The university students, who arrived on stage at the main campus for the UPR, made the decision in light of the academic, administrative, social and economic problems that the campus suffers from.