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Report on Puerto Rico
Note: report on Vieques will be presented separately
International Network of Women Against Militarism
February 2012

By María I. Reinat-Pumarejo and Mariluz Franco-Ortiz

Puerto Rico, la isla del encanto — the Enchanted Island, as it is endearingly referred to by our
people, has a 516-year history of colonialism; just over 400 years under Spanish rule and, now,
just over 100 years under the rule of the United States.

The Big Island is 110 miles (180 km) long and 40 miles (64 km) wide. Vieques and Culebra
are part of the archipelago. They are located in the east and both were used by the US Navy
for their military practices.

Since the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the illegal Treaty of Paris1, which transferred
Puerto Rico, Guaham and Philippines to the United States, we have been courageously
fighting US political, social, economic and cultural imposition. Since the beginning, Puerto
Rico’s relationship with the US has been an uneven relationship predicated on a racist

1   Spain had granted autonomy for Puerto Rico in 1897.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial cartoon published in 1898 (below), notice how Puerto Rico,
Cuba, Philippines and Guam are racially distorted, represented as dark ape-like people and
countries, trophies of the US Army and Navy.

In the 1898 Detriot News editorial cartoon (below), notice a distant and darker Hawaii calling
for Uncle Sam’s attention to be picked him up, too. This is of relevance today as the US
continues to treats their so-called possessions and host countries (for military bases) as racially
inferior and hast not sustain equitable and respectful relationships with any of us.

The United States has used its mighty military apparatus—Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines,
Coast Guard, FBI, DEA, CIA, etc.—in every attempt to repress our struggle for justice, to
suppress our outcry for peace. They have tried to undermine any attempts of self-
determination by instilling fear, feelings of inadequacy and distrust among and between our
own people. Convincing us that “the American way of life” is superior and that we should
assimilate into it the has been as important as the military presence to assure control of Puerto

In 1982, Villa Sin Miedo, a community of homeless squatters, was forcibly removed by the police, who also proceeded to burn down
their new homes.

This repressive military apparatus systematically criminalized those who dare oppose the US
regime. The pattern of repression by the US government has been well documented and
dates right back to the 1898 invasion.

Throughout the past century, the persecution of those who fought for independence has
translated into surveillance, harassment, threats, provocations, loss of jobs opportunities,
expulsion from government institutions, false criminal charges, aggressions, torture and

Commander Filiberto Ojeda was murdered by the FBI, September 23, 2005. Socialist leader Jorge Farinacci died prematurely of
brain cancer, August 2006.

Legally, Puerto Rico is a non-incorporated territory of the US, a commonwealth or an estado libre
asociado, which literally translates into “free and associated state.” Yet, there is no freedom in
our association with the US, nor even real autonomy. In fact, we are considered one of the
US’s “possessions.” The US government controls our foreign relations and commercial
activities, customs administration, immigration and emigration, maritime laws, air, land and
sea and any other important aspect of our lives. Sadly, several legal cases have demonstrated
that even the US constitution overrides the Puerto Rican constitution, notwithstanding the
fact that Puerto Rico’s constitution is considered to be much more progressive and modern
than the US’s own founding document.

Throughout the past 111 years of colonialism under the US, there has been resistance and
attempts at decolonization. Many heroes and sheroes have offered their lives for Puerto Rican
freedom. Some have died for the cause and dedicated their lives to the movement; others,
mainly out of practical and financial reasons, have been convinced that Puerto Rico should
remain as a Commonwealth or should be inevitably incorporated as a state of the US. Yet, the
US racial construct is not designed to incorporate what the US racial construct calls a
“mestizo, mulatto” country into their political system. Therefore pushing that agenda in the
US is cumbersome.

Doña Lolita Lebrón was the leader of a group of Puerto Rican nationalists pursuing independence who, in 1954,
attacked the US House of Representatives in order to call attention to the Puerto Rican struggle for independence. She
spent 25 years in US federal prison.

       Doña Lolita Lebrón supported independence till the last breath, which occurred on August 1st, 2010.

Although independence had not been achieved, there are many examples of successes in
dealing with US impositions. The Vieques struggle is one of them. [Representatives of the
Viequense Women’s Alliance and Comiitee for Rescue and Development of Vieques update
their situation on Feb 22-23] Many of you are aware that because of the great strength and
moral conviction of our struggle—sustained by civil disobedience, protest, mobilizing and
national and international organizing—we were successful in forcing the US Navy out of
Vieques in 2003.

Because of our victory in Vieques, the US Department of Defense also closed Roosevelt
Roads Base in Ceiba and Naguabo in 2004! It is important to note that Roosevelt Roads was
the largest and most important naval base in the Caribbean and Latin America, and housed
the US Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO). This unforeseen consequence is a
welcomed bonus for those of us who believe in and are committed to the demilitarization of
Puerto Rico

Still, however, according to the Department of Defense Base Structure Report for FY 2008,
39 military sites and installations occupying some 26,463 acres remain in Puerto Rico. After
the struggle in Vieques and with the closing of Roosevelt Roads, activists’ efforts have
concentrated on holding the US Navy accountable for the contamination and associated
health problems, and on assuring the social and economic development of Vieques, Ceiba and

In the summer of 2009, the government of Puerto Rico announced their plans to develop an
exclusive luxury tourist resort called Caribbean Riviera (imitating the French Riviera in Monaco)
located at the former Roosevelt Roads Base. The Caribbean Riviera project proposed the
development of casinos, two golf courses, two sports marinas and the development of a mall

and housing geared to very wealthy tourists and residents. The announcement of this project
generated broad-based citizen opposition in affected municipalities of Ceiba and Naguabo, as
they had already put forth a comprehensive community development plan for the use of the
recovered land.

       Opposition to Riviera del Caribe. In the wheelchair, centenarian nationalist sheroe, Isabelita Rosado.

This project was in violation of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) regulations which
requires a local board to oversee the conversion of the base. People were outrage when in a
public relation’s event, Jaime González, Executive Director of the Caribbean Riviera project,
shamelessly insulted the communities of Ceiba and Naguabo where he was presenting the
proposed project. Caught on video, he told local residents:

          We are going to have stores, some of them will have products that you will not be
          able to buy, but “such is life.” Not everyone has been so lucky. But there is no
          exclusion here. And those that don’t even have 50 cents to buy a limber [popsicle]
          can, at least, walk free of coast on the pathways in front of the ocean and watch the
          passengers, the passengers with money, come off the cruise ships and the yachts
          and watch them go into the stores and watch them buying expensive things. …
          Well, I am very sorry for you all, but life is that way, not everyone was born so
          fortunate. … Just keep playing the lottery or whatever and maybe one of you will be
          able to buy one of those boats one day.

Although we haven’t heard much about this project since then, on Feb 13 (just days ago) we
were surprised with the news that the navy started an online auction to sell Roosevelt Roads.
Here we share their public announcement (

          The U.S. Department of the Navy, Base Realignment and Closure Program
          Management Office Southeast, will be offering for sale to the public in two (2)
          separate parcels, an approximate 2,036 acres of land and the existing building and
          other improvements thereon. The Property is located within the site boundaries of
          the former Naval Station Roosevelt Roads (“Roosey Roads”), adjacent to the
          communities of Ceiba and Naguabo on the eastern coast of the Commonwealth
          Puerto Rico. The public sale will be conducted via an online auction, presently
          scheduled to commence on February 13, 2012.

          Today, there is no similarly featured real estate opportunity available anywhere on
          the eastern seaboard of the North American continent or in the greater Caribbean
          region. The Roosey Roads pubic sale offering enjoys many incredible natural
          features and comes with a considerable inventory of over 800 existing residential

           homes and a variety of commercial building structures and many more amenities.
           From the breathtaking views of the emerald-colored El Yunque mountain and its
           surrounding “Caribbean Rain Forest”, to the rolling lush hills throughout the
           former base that frame the glistening waters of the blue Caribbean and the Spanish
           Virgin Islands, the “Roosey Roads” public sale offering will be a truly a once-in-a-
           lifetime opportunity, and will be recognized as such by any discerning and visionary
           investment/development group.

A brief radiography

The colonial process in Puerto Rico has resulted in a political, social, economic and spiritual
deterioration at various levels of our daily lives and institutions. As recently shown, since the
beginning of the incumbency of Governor Luis Fortuño, the Government of Puerto Rico
dismissed more than 30,000 public employees. The negative impact of this policy has not only
resulted in economic and political deterioration of the country, but also has extended to the
social, cultural, and emotional domains.

The economic impact of direct and indirect layoffs varies from the increase of the
unemployment rate to the decline in personal available income. In the socio-cultural domain,
unemployment has had a strong impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health
development of individuals and their families. Also, unemployment is associated with
increases in suicide, homicide, crime, family instability and domestic and social violence in

There is an agenda to attack and dismantle our communities, stripping them off from their
human rights acquired through public participation. Some examples are:

    •   Land expropriations of poor communities using forced eviction to frighten and
        intimidate (eg: Los Filtros, Mainé, Barrio Vietnam and Juan Domingo in Guaynabo;
        Río Piedras and the Península de Cantera in San Juan; Central Cortada in Santa Isabel;
        Residencial Gautier Benítez in Caguas; Villa Cañona in Loíza; Barrio Boca in
        Barceloneta; Villas del Sol in Toa Baja; and El Sol community in Ponce);
    •   destroy the University of Puerto Rico and public education system;
    •   privatization of organizations, public service agencies and several state attorneys'
        offices (eg: ombudsperson offices of women and elderly);
    •   promote amendments to the Criminal Code to eliminate prejudice as an aggravate;
        thus, leaving various groups unprotected, such as women, LGBTT community
        members and members of the Dominican and Haitian community in Puerto Rico;
    •   abandon maintenance resources of maritime transportation between Vieques, Culebra,
        and Puerto Rico;
    •   dismantle environmental laws that protect ecological resources (eg: Corredor
        Ecológico del Noreste);
    •   eliminate the Caño Martín Peña Community Trust;
    •   dismantle the legal profession organizations and legal institutions that represent and
        protect the people;
    •   decrease resources for cultural institutions;

    •   dismiss the complaint in the First Circuit of Appeals Federal Court that was presented
        by more than 7,000 Vieques residents that claimed compensation for the health
        damage produced by the military trainings of the United States Navy.

 Faced with this panoramic view of Puerto Rico today, our organizations propose decolonizing
 alternatives to struggle and challenge Eurocentric and individualistic organizational models.
 We affirm the importance of creating collective spaces that include our families in the process
 of integrating communities in the struggle and that integrate political, spiritual and academic
 efforts. The political agenda of our organizations intersect in the struggle for justice, peace,
 solidarity and in the quest for greater political participation.

 We celebrate this meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism and the
 alliance of our sister organizations in Puerto Rico: Collectivo Ilé, Alliance of Vieques Women,
 Women and the New Family Center, Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace, the Committee
 for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, the UNESCO Chair for Peace Education at the
 University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Amnesty International, Mothers Against the War,
 Lesbian Creative Workshop, the Student Federation of Social Work at the Graduate School of
 Social Work Beatriz Lassalle, University of Puerto Rico, the Committee of Women from the
 Puerto Rico Bar Association, and the Mesa de Diálogo Martin Luther King, Jr.

 We celebrate this event, weaving bonds of solidarity and hope at the national and international
 levels. We celebrate this event in honor of our rebels’ ancestors whose names have been
 silenced in the official history. As our sister Anna Courtier Mangual, who dwells among them
 would say: "Today we say to our ancestors, our nation and the world that we still ARE, we're
 HERE and We ARE in UNITY!"

 San Juan, Puerto Rico - February 19-24, 2012

Sponsoring organizations
8th Gathering - Forging Nets for Demilitarization and Genuine Security
Colectivo Ilé: Organizers for Consciousness-in-Action is an organization dedicated to anti-
oppression community organizing. We work to create systemic and institutional changes that
may lead to people’s liberation from racism, classism, sexism, colonialism, militarism, and other
forms of oppression. Through all of our efforts, we seek to organize, and help people move
toward empowerment: consciousness-in-action. We do this work at home in Puerto Rico, with
people in Latino communities across the United States, and with groups internationally. Our
work has benefited thousands of people since ilé’s founding in 1992.

Colectivo Ilé has naturally evolved into a community organization dealing primarily with
women. Efforts such as Hilvanando Visiones de Paz: Colcha Conmemorativa por la Paz 2004
(Stitching our Visions of Peace: Conmmemorative Peace Quilt 2004), Programa de Sanación y
liderato femenino (healing and leadership for women survivors of domestic and family
violence), and Africa en mi ser, Africa en mi piel/ Africa on my skin, Africa in my soul
(reinforcing our Caribbean identity and dealing with eurocentrism, racism, and colonialism) are
emblematic of our work with women and seek to strengthen our voices and our leadership.
Contact: María I. Reinat-Pumarejo,

Mariluz Franco-Ortiz

Centro Mujer y Nueva Familia, Inc ., (CMNF) is an organization located in the rural
Puerto Rico. Created by members of the community under the leadership of women of color.
Founded in 1998, CMNF has bee dealing with the impact of domestic and family violence in
our community an in individual women’s lives for over 14 years. We have learned a lot during
all this time, and we employ an innovative and careful strategy in addressing issues of family
violence. Most public interventions with regards to women’s safety rely mostly on criminal legal
strategies of law enforcement and punishment and the provision of services to victims of
family violence. Meanwhile, efforts to support community –based antiviolence initiatives
focused towards political organizing and social change are generally underestimated, excluded
from public funding, or just ignored.

Our work offers a contrast to the prevailing service-delivery model. CMNF brings our voices
as women of color, survivors and warriors against all forms of violence against women (sexism)
together with members of our communities who also work to dismantle (through political
grassroots organizing) other forms of oppression; racism, classism and colonialism. Our
organization works with indigenous, anti-racist, women-and family-centric model of
intervention with a comprehensive, holistic approach in alleviating and healing domestic and
family violence. Contact: Onelia Pérez:

Viequense Women’s Alliance - On May 14, 1999, a group of Viequense women joined
the struggle for the demilitarization of Vieques, Puerto Rico. At that moment, they did not
anticipate the impact they would have in their community. The Vieques Women’s Alliance
grew out of a need to heighten women’s visibility, offering a nurturing space in the Vieques
community. Women who often were excluded of institutional and political arenas, now
reclaimed their Island as they did their homes; they demanded a home that was peaceful and
clean, free from the military presence and its devastating cumulative social and environmental

Driven by a sense of justice and using a women-centered approach to engage other women,
they led and participated in numerous strategies to remove the Navy from their Island. They
also supported cancer patients and their families, as they created support groups for women
with breast cancer, brought clinics and doctors to attend patients in Vieques and, for the past
several years, have organized Relay for Life, a fundraising and educational event from the
American Cancer Society.

Today, they continue inspiring and supporting the leadership of women in Vieques and
support efforts to improve maritime transportation. In 2004 this women’s group was
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women’s for Peace initiative and won
the City of Guernica Award for Peace and Reconciliation in 2006. Contact: Zaida Torres

The Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace - The Caribbean Project for Justice
and Peace - Is a non-governmental and non profit organization, founded in 1973, sponsored
by the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee; became independent in
1985. The project focuses on education, in the areas of peace education, demilitarization and

environmental justice.

A major component of the CPJP is the Peace Education Program which develops educational
activities to sensitize about the effects of violence on children and youth. Since 1986, the Peace
Education Program develops the Campaign and Festival of the Non-War Toys and Non-
Violence Diversion.

The Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace participates in and promotes exchanges,
conferences, meetings, seminars, lectures and activities in Puerto Rico and abroad related to
peace education, demilitarization and environmental justice. Our commitment is to
encourage sustainable development, environmental justice and the respect of the cultural
and ethnic identities of people. The Project also collaborates and offers solidarity to diverse
communities, religious and grassroots organizations to affirm human rights and
environmental justice. Contact: Wanda Colon -,

Mothers Against the War is a Puerto Rican community based organization that aims at
attaining peace, for the mothers, and families that oppose wars as a way of dealing with
national or international disputes, and to the use of torture as a way of extracting information
from prisoners.

We orient Puerto Rican youth so they do not sign up a military contract. We seek health
services for our military relatives and assist them in obtaining conscientious objector status.
Contact: Sonia Santiago Hernández, founder

The UNESCO Chair for Peace Education is an interdisciplinary project housed in
the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). It was founded in 1996 with a
Cooperation Agreement between UNESCO and UPR as part of the UNITWIN initiative of
the Higher Education Division of UNESCO. It is based on a vision of positive peace that
assumes the interrelationship between education, research and action for peace. Among its
main activities are: conferences, forums and publications on topics related to building a culture
of peace in Puerto Rico and globally. It also offers university courses and collaborates with
educational and nongovernmental organization in peace education, human rights and human
security. We work in collaboration with other UNESCO Chairs in Latin America, the
Caribbean and Europe. Among the topics developed during these years, those related to
overcoming different forms of violence have been particularly important, including:
demilitarization, human rights and sustainable development. Contact: Anita Yukin _ Web page

Amnesty International is a global movement of people working in favor of human
rights. Our members dedicate their efforts, resources and time, in showing their solidarity to
the victims of human rights violations and promoting the hope that lies in the achievement of
human rights. At this moment Amnesty International has more than 3 millions members
around the world and has an impact on more than 150 sections. AI investigates, documents
and inform about human rights abuses and violations. AI coordinates practical and efficient
actions to end these violations. AI has been organized to make possible that anonymous people
raise up their voices in favor of themselves and other people that has been or are in danger of

being victims of human rights violations. AI work is done through public pressure, education
and international solidarity. One of the fundamental public pressure actions performed by AI
are the “urgent actions” done frequently through the internet and regular mail. The new
campaign by AI “Demand Dignity” focus on making the states take responsibility in honoring
the economic, social and cultural rights of their citizens.
Contact: Migna Luz Rivera -

Mesa de Diálogo Martin Luther King, Jr., was created in 2010 by a group of pastors,
students, teachers, theologians, union leaders, and community activists to promote the legacy
of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Puerto Rico, the relevance of this legacy to Puerto Rico, and to
serve as an alternative evangelical voice with a liberationist perspective. Through the study and
promotion of the philosophy and works of Dr. King, the organization is encouraging resistance
and active non-violence as a method to end all kinds of exploitation, discrimination, exclusion,
inequality and oppression. Since its creation, Mesa has held educational activities about a
variety of topics such as: racism in Puerto Rico, non-violent active resistance, dialogues with
and support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual community in
denouncing discrimination. It has also participated in several forums to urge the solidarity
between groups that work against different forms of exclusion, discrimination, segregation, and
injustices in Puerto Rico. The group plans to hold dialogues in which diverse sectors of Puerto
Rican society can converse about topics of social justice to support, encourage, and promote
social transformation in Puerto Rico. Contact: Lester Caleb Santiago,

The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV) was
created in 1993 to continue the historic struggle of Vieques against the presence of the US
Navy. It joined activists from earlier moments of struggle (Cruzade for Rescue of Vieques,
1970’s-80s) and other activists concerned about military bombing and control over two thirds
of the island in the hands of foreign military forces.

The CRDV began an educational campaign in the 1990s on the horrible effects of military
toxics on health. It developed a network of support and solidarity with people and
organizations from communities in Puerto Rico, the US and other countries struggling against

With international organizations and Puerto Rican experts in social-economic development,
CRDV worked to articulate a Community vision for sustainable development on a Vieques free
from the Navy.

The committee became involved with anti militarist projects like the International War
Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Caribbean Project for Peace and Justice and the
Military Toxics Project, among others.

Committee members have travelled to the Philippines, India, Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Japan,
Hiroshima, Okinawa, Korea and several places in Europe, Latin America and the US.

The CRDV was one of the principal grass roots organizations during the intense struggle from
1999-2003 that put and end to the bombing and military presence here. Contact: Bob
Rabin/Nilda Medina, bieke@prorescate

Federation of Graduate Social Work Student of Escuela Graduada Beatriz Lasalle,
University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Contact: Orlando Meléndez -

Taller Lésbico Creativo – addressing issues of human rights for women and children of
the LGBTT community. Contact person: Olga Orraca,

Women’s Commission/Bar Association of Puerto Rico
Given the growing number of women becoming lawyers, the Women’s Commission was
created to empower and foster their leadership, and to further support civil rights for all
women in Puerto Rico. Contact: Verónica Rivera-Torres,

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