[News] War Against All Puerto Ricans

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 21 19:45:28 EDT 2015

*War Against All Puerto Ricans*

by Nelson A. Denis (April 21, 2015)


Within thirty years of occupying Puerto Rico in 1898, the US had 
devalued the Puerto Rican currency by 40% and owned 80% of all the 
island's farms . . . as well as the insular postal system, the entire 
coastal railroad, and the San Juan International Airport.

The US military controlled another 13% of the island.

In addition, U.S. federal agencies controlled Puerto Rico's foreign 
relations, banking system, currency, customs, tariffs, import/export 
quotas, radio waves, commerce, transportation, military service, 
maritime laws, and cabotage rights.

Although Puerto Ricans were declared US citizens in 1917, just in time 
for World War I, these same "citizens" were found ineligible for minimum 
wage legislation in 1922, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the US 
constitution did not apply to Puerto Rico. This did not sit well with 
the /macheteros /- the sugarcane workers - who worked 50 and 60 hours a 
week for starvation wages.

In 1934, the /macheteros /went on strike, and asked Pedro Albizu Campos 
to lead them.

The "war against all Puerto Ricans" was declared by the Puerto Rico 
Police Chief in 1935.  After murdering four Puerto Ricans in the Rio 
Piedras Massacre, Police Chief E. Francis Riggs announced that, if 
Albizu Campos continued to "agitate" the /macheteros/, there would be 
"war to the death against all Puerto Ricans."

Eighty years later, just three weeks ago, Nation Books published my 
book. /War Against All Puerto Ricans 
It documents how and why this war was waged. I knew this history had to 
be told. What I didn't know, was the response it would receive.

*An Instant Audience*


Two weeks /before/ it was published, the book was a #1 Amazon Best 
Seller. By the date of release, excerpts from the book received nearly 
500,000 views on the /Latino Rebels/ website. Two days after the book's 
release, the Independence Party of Puerto Rico called me to ask how they 
could promote it on the island. Within one week, I made nine TV and 
radio appearances, with further bookings scheduled for C-SPAN, New York 
1, and /Democracy Now/.

Print journalists found the book quickly. Robert Dominguez of the /New 
York Daily News/ wrote "Prepare to be outraged . . . meticulously 
researched . . . a timely, eye-opening must-read."  In /Latino Rebels/, 
Julio Varela wrote that "/War Against All Puerto Ricans /earns 'instant 
classic' status . . . anyone who wants to understand U.S. imperial 
history from the time of Manifest Destiny needs to read this book." In 
/Respuesta/, Andre Lee Muñiz praised "the book's historical value . . . 
a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about Puerto Rico." 
In /Gozamos/, Hector Luis Alamo wrote, "Nelson Denis doesn't just give 
us history. He gives us history on fire . . . a thoroughly researched 
indictment of over a century of U.S. policy toward one small island .a 
full-throated eulogy of brave heroes, men and women of conviction, who 
devoted every drop of their blood to a people and a principle."

>From Washington, D.C., Congressman José Serrano wrote that "It is a book 
that every student of the US-Puerto Rico relationship should read."

In Chicago, José López Rivera - the brother of Oscar López Rivera - 
invited me to Division Street for a four-day book tour.

Down on the island, Mr. Luis Gonzalez-Argueso, owner of the Arguezo & 
Garzon Editores publishing company, offered to write a Spanish 
translation for/free/. Don Luis is now writing it.

This overwhelming response, within a week of the book's publication, 
made me stop and think.I am not a celebrity.I am not a famous writer. 
There was something going on, that had nothing to do with me.

It was the subject matter.

*A Hidden History*


The story of Puerto Rico, under the tutelage of the United States, had 
not been fully told. No one knew that Charles Herbert Allen, the first 
civilian governor from the US, stuffed the Puerto Rican economy into his 
pocket by stealing thousands of farms, running up to Wall Street, and 
making himself the president of Domino Sugar.

No one knew that Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín was an opium addict, and that J. 
Edgar Hoover used this information to control the island's politics.

No one knew that Police Chief Riggs, who declared "war to the death 
against all Puerto Ricans," was the heir to the Riggs National Bank, 
which had colonial investments all over South and Central America.

No one knew that, right after the Ponce Massacre, the Police Chief 
re-arranged the corpses in the street, and then took photos of them, to 
make it look like the murdering policemen had acted in "self-defense."

No one knew that an OSS/CIA operative named Waller Booth opened a 
nightclub near Camp Las Casas in Santurce, where he spied on nearly 
every Nationalist on the island.

No one knew that Albizu Campos was being subjected to TBI (Total Body 
Irradiation) while in /La Princesa/ prison and everyone - from the FBI 
to Luis Muñoz Marín to the prison guards themselves - knew all about it.

No one knew that the US kept a torture facility in Aguadilla, near the 
Ramey Air Force Base - where hundreds of Puerto Rican prisoners were 
interrogated, tortured, and killed.

The reason that no one knew, is because all the information was buried 
in police files, hospital records, newspaper archives, US congressional 
transcripts, and 1.8 million pages of secret FBI files, known today as 

*The Heroes of this History*


The final confirmation of all this history came from the people who 
lived it: the Nationalists themselves. I interviewed dozens of them over 
a period of forty years, starting from 1974.

They had lived in a world where selfishness was a great asset, a world 
owned by strangers and governed by corruption, a world so threatening 
and capricious that to tell the truth was to risk one's livelihood, 
one's freedom, and sometimes one's life. It took a long time (in some 
cases years) to earn their trust, but it was worth every moment. Their 
personal recollections - with respect to the Ponce Massacre, the Rio 
Piedras Massacre, the trial of Albizu Campos, the Gag Law arrests, the 
1934 sugarcane strike, the police terror of Governor Blanton Winship, 
the haplessness of Moncho Reyes, the bombing of Jayuya and Utuado, the 
conditions at /La Princesa/ and /El Oso Blanco /prisons - all closely 
parallel the newspaper accounts, congressional testimony, and FBI files 
from 1930 to 1965.

The Nationalists fought a brave battle against the most powerful empire 
in history. As the years progressed, and I earned their trust, these 
brave men and women opened up to me. They told me things I'd never seen 
in any history book, or heard in any lecture hall: not at Harvard, not 
at Yale, or anywhere. In exchange for sharing this information, all they 
asked was that I tell the story straight: with no embellishment or undue 
drama. It wasn't much to ask...but no one had ever done this for them.

*The Facts*


On October 30, 1950, a violent revolution swept through Puerto Rico: 
Nationalists tried to kill President Harry S. Truman; gunfights roared 
in eight towns; revolutionaries burned police stations, post offices, 
and selective service centers.

To suppress this revolution, the US Army deployed 5,000 troops and 
bombarded the towns of Jayuya and Utuado - the only time in history that 
the United States government has bombed its own citizens. They also 
arrested 3,000 Puerto Ricans and imprisoned Pedro Albizu Campos. While 
Albizu was in prison, evidence strongly indicates, the US subjected 
Albizu to TBI (Total Body Irradiation) until it killed him.

*The Outlook*


/War Against All Puerto Ricans/tells the story of this revolution. The 
book occupies the same cultural space as /Bury my Heart at Wounded 
Knee/, in 1971. It challenges us to re-set our moral compass. It awakens 
the public conscience to America's plundering of an entire island, whose 
residents have been US citizens for nearly a century.

It also arrives at a critical time.

April 21, 2015 marks the 50^th anniversary of the death of Albizu Campos.

The island is in economic malaise with a $73 billion debt, two gasoline 
tax hikes in the past year, soaring electrical and water costs, 
government pension rollbacks, layoffs, a proposed 16% VAT (value-added 
tax), and even a proposed "obesity" tax.

At the same time that working class and middle-income Puerto Ricans are 
being squeezed off the island, the government extends a 20-year tax 
exemption on interest, dividends, and capital gains, for foreign (i.e., 
US) investors in the same island. This latest corporate welfare, called 
Act 22, was passed in 2012 and applauded by the /New York Times /and the 
US business press.

The moment that its debt was downgraded to "Junk Bond" status, Puerto 
Rico became a target for corporate raiders and hedge fund managers, who 
are now using Act 22 to buy "distressed properties" in every corner of 
the island. The latest raider is John Paulson, whose hedge fund made $15 
billion by betting againstthe US economy in 2007, during its national 
mortgage crisis.

Paulson is using Act 22 to buy and build two $500 million beachfront 
hotels in San Juan. A herd of hedge funders is following right behind 
him. The entire stampede is being trumpeted by the New York 
Times("Puerto Rico Luring Buyers with Tax Breaks," Sept. 5, 2014), 
Bloomberg Business ("Puerto Rico: Tax Haven for America's Super-Rich," 
June 6, 2014), and New Yorker Magazine ("The Puerto Rico Problem," April 
6, 2015).

What does this have to do with /War Against All Puerto Ricans/?


Albizu Campos was correct, when he observed that "owning a person makes 
you a scoundrel, but owning a nation makes you a colonial benefactor." 
The conditions are now mounting, for the gentrification of Puerto Rico. 
Within one more generation, the entire island will become a playground 
for America's super rich.

Unless we recognize this, and confront it together, the war against all 
Puerto Ricans will soon be over. Our island will be gone. Our people 
will have been evicted. It all reminds me of something my grandmother 
once told me: "Puerto Rican eyes are all dark, with lots of yesterdays 
in them."


*/Nelson A. Denis /*/served in 1997-2001 as a New York State Assemblyman 
representing East Harlem in Manhatttan. A graduate of Harvard University 
and Yale Law School, he wrote over 300 editorials for //El Diario/La 
Prensa//, and received the Best Editorial Writing award from the 
National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). For more 
information on Denis, visit his blog 
He can be reached at nelsondenis248 at aol.com 
<mailto:nelsondenis248 at aol.com>./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20150421/c496b949/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list