Following years of colonialism and the intensified assault of austerity in the past several years, Puerto Rico is suffering from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and the massive impact of climate change.
As the National Lawyers Guild International Committee, we demand the immediate cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt. We also join the many calls from Puerto Rico for the abrogation of the Jones Act, which requires that only U.S.-flagged ships can dock in Puerto Rican ports. The Jones Act is not only an ongoing source of economic repression in Puerto Rico; today, it hinders international efforts to provide relief to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, at a time of massive destruction of homes, loss of power and electricity throughout the island, a growing number of deaths and ongoing crisis.
We also demand that Congress make an emergency allocation of billions of dollars to support immediate relief and aid for Puerto Rico. The U.S. official response to the destruction in Puerto Rico has been racist, colonialist and shamefully inadequate. The official climate change denial of the Trump administration and the U.S.’ lengthy record of failing to address climate change in any substantive manner, especially when combined with grinding austerity and deep racism, has blood on its hands in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands.
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, NLG President, said: “The devastation in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominica, the Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Antigua and all the Caribbean is not just from hurricanes. It’s from the triple C evils: capitalism, colonialism and climate change. They helped create the conditions for this once-in-a-century horror to occur and will only deepen them as aid pours in. We don’t just need disaster relief or rescue & recovery efforts, we need relief from the pillaging of Caribbean economies and peoples, otherwise these (un)natural disasters will continue to destroy whole nations as we watch from afar.”
This was not a natural disaster. The impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico cannot be separated from colonialism, austerity and climate change.
We urge people seeking to donate to support Puerto Rico to drive donations to the Hurricane Maria Relief and Recovery Fund at www.mariafund.org, set up by Puerto Rican lawyer/activist Xiomara Caro to direct all donations to the most vulnerable communities and organizations serving them. The founder of this fund has participated in multiple NLG conventions and International Committee meetings and has a long history of direct involvement and support for popular movements serving the most marginalized on the island.
For more on this important grassroots effort, please see the In These Times article, “These Disasters Aren’t Natural Anymore.”
For lawyers who would like to volunteer their services to support Puerto Rico, including helping people to file FEMA benefits, researching remotely and traveling to PR on legal brigades, please use the volunteer signup form.
Image: Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (Western Area Power).