[News] Trump’s Cronies are Trying to Kill the Puerto Rican Day Parade

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 5 11:26:44 EDT 2017


  Trump’s Cronies are Trying to Kill the Puerto Rican Day Parade

by Reuben Morris <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/reuben-morris/> - 
June 5, 2017

The 60thannual National Puerto Rican Day parade is scheduled in New York 
City for June 11, 2017.  The annual celebration of music, dance, and 
cultural solidarity has always had a special place in the hearts of New 
York’s Boricua community.  It’s a festival where culture and politics 
weave the joy and melancholy of Puerto Rican history and reality into a 
joyous, yet complex, tapestry, deeply resonant with the many voices of 
the people who make it happen.

Alongside the salsa and the many contingents of musicians and dancers 
that make it so much fun, the Parade has also committed to an ongoing 
campaign to raise awareness of the grave humanitarian and economic 
crisis facing Puerto Rico.  This year that campaign focuses on the 
centennial of the Jones Act – which established US citizenship for all 
Puerto Ricans, and remains to this day a central pivot of modern Puerto 
Rican history.  The legacy of the Jones Act is the unique brand of 
neo-colonialism that it fostered on the island.  On the one hand, it 
offered the ideological prospect of equal status and opportunity.  But 
that prospect has always been undercut by the reality of Puerto Rico’s 
subordination within the US capitalist system.

The centennial of the Jones Act and its paradoxical legacy 
serendipitously coincide with the release of Oscar López Rivera, 
one-time leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), a 
Marxist-Leninist organization whose members declared themselves 
combatants against the US colonization of Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, the 
FALN set off more than 120 bombs in US cities, causing millions in 
property damage, injuring dozens, and killing five.  Although no 
evidence ever linked him directly to any of the bombings, in 1981 Lopez 
Rivera was convicted of seditious conspiracy (conspiring with others to 
overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the US Government), weapons 
possession and transporting stolen vehicles across state lines.  He was 
sentenced to 55 years (plus 15 more, subsequently, for an attempt to 

In the waning days of his presidency, President Obama commuted that 

The Parade has been advocating for Lopez Rivera’s release for years.  In 
celebration of the occasion it invited him to march in the 2017 Parade 
as a “Prócer de la Libertad” (Defender of Freedom).

And shortly thereafter a smear campaign coordinated by Brent Bozell’s 
Media Research Center set out to kill the Parade.  To date that campaign 
has resulted in the withdrawal of a number of Parade sponsors, amid an 
increasingly outrageous cascade of lies about the Parade, those who 
support it, and Lopez Rivera.

MRC is a conservative advocacy group funded by organizations and 
individuals with deep connections to the Trump administration, as well 
as to the hedge funds and creditors who stand to gain the most from 
Puerto Rico’s misery.  Despite styling itself a media “watchdog,” ever 
vigilant for left-wing bias, it is, in fact, a highly tendentious 
sponsor of anti-immigrant bias and climate change denial, among other 
right-wing positions. MRC is linked to and actively supports vulture 
hedge funds and bondholders that have lobbied Congress to prevent Puerto 
Rico from declaring bankruptcy or writing off unsustainable debt.  Those 
lobbying efforts resulted in the establishment of the Fiscal Oversight 
and Management Board, which recently launched proceedings that many 
observers fear will inevitably result in big pay-outs to vulture funds 
and a crippling austerity regime for the island’s 3.4 million residents.

MRC is supported by substantial funding from the Mercer Family 
Foundation; Rebekah Mercer is an MRC Board member.  Mercer and her 
father, Robert Mercer, are Donald Trump mega-donors, credited with 
having introduced Trump to Steve Bannon. Between 2008 and 2012, the 
Mercer Family Foundation contributed $7,494,000 to MRC.  Through the 
family hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, the Mercers are invested in 
Popular Inc. (d/b/a Banco Popular in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands 
and as Popular Community Bank in the United States).  As a bondholder, 
BPOP is heavily exposed to the Puerto Rican fiscal crisis, and its 
investors stand to benefit significantly from any resolution that 
results in a settlement with bondholders (as opposed to a bankruptcy 
proceeding that might favor, for example, pensioners over bondholders). 
  Not surprisingly, Robert Mercer contributed $2.5 million to a Koch 
Brothers entity that aggressively lobbied Congress against allowing 
Puerto Rico to restructure its debts.

MRC’s board of trustees also includes Betsy DeVos’ father, Richard M. 
DeVos (whose foundation contributed $2.1 million to MRC between 
1998-2010); William Walton (an advisor to Trump’s transition team); and 
Paul Isaac, a principal of hedge fund Arbiter Partners (and author of a 
2016 letter to the Financial Times arguing against Puerto Rico’s right 
to file bankruptcy).

MRC’s hit-job on this year’s Parade has been led by Ken Oliver-Mendez, 
and by Jorge Bonilla.  Oliver-Mendez previously worked for Puerto Rico 
Governor Luis Fortuño (who now works for the law firm Steptoe & Johnson, 
a law firm prominently represented on the creditor side of the debt 
crisis).  Bonilla is a onetime Republican candidate for Congress in 
Florida’s ninth district and a writer for MRC’s “Newsbusters” blog. 
  Since President Obama announced the commutation of Lopez Rivera’s 
sentence, Bonilla has posted 14 articles attacking Rivera.

To all appearances, right-wing Puerto Rican political operatives have 
made a deep miscalculation in attacking the Parade.  Whatever they may 
think about Lopez Rivera’s radical anti-colonialist politics – and 
opinions vary – the vast majority of Boricuas supported his release. 
  (The man served his time – 36 years in a federal penitentiary, 12 of 
those in solitary.)  Puerto Rican New York will be out in force on June 
12 and they will make that point clearly.  Meanwhile, on the island, a 
status referendum is scheduled (for June 11), which Puerto Rican 
statehood advocates hope will result in renewed impetus to their drive 
for statehood.  Oliver-Mendez and Bonilla are both aggressively 
pro-statehood, and evidently hope that by attacking Lopez Rivera, they 
will increase turnout and support in favor of their position in the 
referendum.  But in doing so they have aligned themselves with a group 
of xenophobes and right-wing extremists in US politics who, in no 
conceivable universe, will ever support Puerto Rican statehood (a lock 
to create a 51ststate that would be a safe seat for two new Democratic 
Senators).  So, in their campaign to promote statehood, they will have 
alienated most Puerto Ricans and done nothing ultimately to advance 
their cause in the US, where their natural allies occupy the left side 
of the political spectrum.

So: bad faith gives rise to strange bedfellows.  Resist both – on June 
11, come out, dance, support the Parade.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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