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How Disaster Capitalism Has Ruined Puerto Rico

October 9, 2018 in Blogs

By Vijay Prashad, Independent Media Institute

And what Cuba can teach the world about going a different route.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo was recently in Puerto Rico. During his trip, Naidoo looked carefully at the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—the Category 4 hurricane in 2017 that tore through the Caribbean. No island in its path was spared, with Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit rightly calling the damage “mindboggling.” Puerto Rico, a part of the United States of America, was struck hard, but not much harder than the other islands. Yet, the relief, rehabilitation and recovery on this island have been slow—paralytically slow. Naidoo’s visit to Puerto Rico comes a year after Hurricane Maria and yet, as he wrote, “it is shocking that so many people are forced to live in such a precarious situation; even worse when they are part of one of the richest nations in the world.”

In January 2018, the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein spent a week in Puerto Rico as a guest of Professors Self-Assembled in Solidarity Resistance (PAReS). In 2017, before the hurricane, students at the University of Puerto Rico had gone on strike to defend public education. PAReS was created by some professors as a way to join the student struggle. Puerto Rico, over the course of the past decade, has been locked in a series of impressive battles over the suffocation of its public institutions by its local government and by its imperial overlords in Washington, D.C. (Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States).

During her visit, Naomi Klein visited not only areas hit hard by the storm and by the planned disregard by the state, but also places of imagination that try to create popular relief and reconstruction. These places included Casa Pueblo (Adjuntas), Dalma Cartagena’s Agriculture in Harmony with the Environment project (Orocovis) and the Mutual Aid Project (Mariana). It is here, in these places of experimentation and love, that Naomi Klein finds the antidote to the disaster capitalism that ruins Puerto Rico—ruined it before the hurricane, ruined it just after the hurricane and proceeds to ruin it for the future. …read more


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