Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cerro Maravilla murders is a tragic and dark episode in the history of Puerto Rico and its relations with the mainland

» NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political Repression - CounterPunch
23/07/13 05:30 from political status of puerto rico - Google News
NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political RepressionCounterPunchJuly 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the political assassination of two Puerto Rican independence activists, Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado, in the infamo...

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NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political Repression 


July 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the political assassination of two Puerto Rican independence activists, Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado, in the infamous Cerro Maravillai case. This case, which was widely followed among Puerto Ricans, involved an agent provocateur that led the activists to an ambush that resulted in their brutal murder by paramilitary agents within the colonial police force. The event led to two investigations, the second of which revealed a conspiracy to cover up both the assassination plot as well as the destruction and manipulation of evidence carried out by the colonial police and justice department, and well as the federal justice department and FBI. Cerro Maravilla symbolizes for many the most outstanding recent example of repressive measures, from surveillance to political assassination, unleashed by US imperialism against the anticolonial movement in Puerto Rico.
The recent revelations of NSA spying by Edward Snowden have provoked mass outrage across the globe. Much of the consternation comes from what is commonly understood as a violation of privacy. In the official media, Snowden’s actions have been framed as a debate between ‘national security’ and ‘privacy’. However, framing the question in these terms is pure subterfuge. The Puerto Rican experience shows that the true objectives of surveillance programs by intelligence agencies like the NSA, CIA, and FBI having nothing to do with ‘security’ or ‘protection’ but rather political repression. Systematic surveillance can only be understood as an essential part of state repression, the purpose of which is to intimidate those that question the status quo by promoting a culture of fear. One can never be separated from the other.
The systematic surveillance and repression of Puerto Rico’s anticolonial movement is obviously just one example of many. A brief historical sketch of US imperialism’s repressive efforts against anticolonial forces in Puerto Rico must begin with the political intrigues that preceded the 1898 military invasion as well as the martial law that characterized both military and civilian colonial governments in its immediate aftermath. This history goes on to include the surveillance and repressive attacks against the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and its followers from the 30s through the 50s, which included massacres of unarmed civilians, political assassinations and imprisonments, the harassment and attacks against labor unions and newly emergent socialist organizations of the same period, as well as COINTELPRO operations against resurgent nationalist and socialist political formations during the 60s and 70s.ii Indeed, in 1987 it was revealed that over 130,000 files on individuals and organizations had been accumulated through systematic surveillance on the island. This history is an integral part of the parallel campaigns of systematic state repression unleashed within the United States against groups such as the Black Liberation Movement, the American Indian Movement, the Chicano Liberation Movement, radical labor organizations, progressive students and antiwar activists, as well as communists.iii As such, what constitutes a scandal for the broader public is in fact part of the daily reality for those that fight for freedom and an end to oppression.
Snowden’s revelation that the United States Security Group Command’s Sabana Seca installation, located in the northern coastal municipality of Toa Baja, is part of an international surveillance network, which includes the Fornstat program, comes to no surprise to Puerto Rican anticolonial activists. From Sabana Seca, US naval intelligence monitors and gathers Internet, phone, and other forms of communication. In 1999, Duncan Campbell and Mark Honigsbaum of The Guardian already highlighted the naval intelligence’s “Echelon” operations from Sabana Seca and other locations both in the US and internationally as part of joint US British surveillance programs.iv
What is critical to highlight about US imperialism in Puerto Rico is the continued military character of colonialism on the island. For the benefit of those that may be unaware or who take the position that US militarism characterized only the past history of colonialism in Puerto Rico, a few contemporary examples serve to illustrate the point. Over the past decade and a half, Puerto Ricans have mobilized en masse to oppose a proposed military radar system intended for the Lajas valley in the southwestern part of the island, to end the practice of using the eastern island of Vieques as a bombing range by the US military and its allies (It should be noted that there was also a successful campaign to end the militarization of Culebra island also off the eastern coast of the main island in the 70s), and in more recent times against a system of potentially toxic and environmentally destructive antennas used both by the military and cellular companies that have proliferated across the island. In an article in the current issue of Claridad, the spokesperson for the grassroots Coalition of Communities Against the Proliferation of Antennas, Wilson Torres, sheds light on the US military’s Full Spectrum Dominance program currently being implemented in Puerto Rico. v
Understood in the context of pervasive unemployment, which serves to ensure an ever present pool of recruits used as cannon fodder in US military campaigns throughout the world as well as the structural dependence of large parts of the colonial economy on the Pentagon, this picture constitutes the modified form of US militarism in Puerto Rico in the present context. One may add the militarization of the colonial police force in the ongoing attacks against residents of public housing and other marginalized communities to this reality.
It would not be difficult to draw parallels between much of what is described immediately above and the realities faced by many North Americans. Heavy-handed policing and economically depressed communities dependent upon military or prison industries are a familiar reality for many. Yet the notion that the United States of America is characterized by a repressive state is much more difficult for the average person to accept. The narrative of 9/11 provides the pretext that results in the conflation of national security and state repression in the minds of many.
Notwithstanding, the revelations about the NSA spying program have provoked the condemnation of all except the most recalcitrant sycophants of US imperialism. Yet, it is absolutely necessary to place these programs in the context of the long history of state repression and militarism. Those on the left must push to extend the public discourse beyond questions of personal privacy to a discussion of systematic political repression within increasingly militarized “liberal” democracies. The experiences of anticolonial activists and militant, class-conscious revolutionaries from Puerto Rico lend valuable insights that add to the discussion around the significance of what Snowden’s leaks reveal: systematic surveillance and state repression are two sides of the same coin.
An insightful comment by Marx, writing in the New York Daily Tribune about British imperialism in India during the mid 1800s and often repeated among Puerto Rican comrades, is a useful starting point for the US left:
“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked.”
Carlos Borrero is a New York based writer.

Mike Nova comments: 

I probably will be labeled as one of "the most recalcitrant sycophants of US imperialism" also, but I have to say that one of the most troubling aspects of leftist interpretations is their dogmatic character, very narrow and rigid point of view and outlook and preconceived notions of social and political "rights and wrongs". What Marx said (putting aside a rather mechanistic and schematic nature of whatever he said) about almost two centuries ago might have been somewhat of a truth, or partial truth, or his own version of the truth at that time, but it can hardly be applied to our contemporary realities. 

Cerro Maravilla murders is a tragic and dark episode in the history of Puerto Rico and its relations with the mainland, indeed. But to look at it "through the prism of political repression", or through the prism of anticolonial struggle", or through any other ready-made prism only means to obscure the vision and limit our understanding of those events and their historical significance. It is difficult to escape the impression that "leftist" and "anticolonial" interpretations and ideologies only serve as "Trojan horses" in geopolitical strategies of certain powers which exploit them and their adherents cynically and shrewdly, regardless of these powers own "ideological revolutions"; in our days, just as in the days past. 

Besides that, I want to add, the past is the past. It has to be studied and understood, the lessons have to be drawn, but it is the past, we cannot live in it. Presently, more than a half of Island's population prefers the statehood option (and this is a historical shift), which apparently is viewed by them as the best solution of all or most of the Island's problems, and it is. Another issue in this article, which I feel, has to be mentioned, is its irrational, rabid hatred of the US military, which apparently stems, among many factors, from a war mentality. All the wars that the Island was involved in are over a long time ago. This mentality and hatred are the vestiges of the past and should be left in the past. And it is also worth mentioning that these attitudes and sentiments might be deliberately and purposefully stimulated and exploited by outside forces. 

If "conquerors" are perceived and experienced as "robbers" ("A spider is proud when it has caught a fly, and another when he has caught a poor hare, and another when he has taken a little fish in a net, and another when he has taken wild boars, and another when he has taken bears, and another when he has taken Sarmatians. Are not these robbers, if thou examinest their opinions?"), the conquered become in turn the robbers themselves, in their subtle, covert but sophisticated ways. This vicious cycle perpetuates itself until their complete mutual assimilation, after which the "robberies" continue in a different context, not interethnic and military, but social, economic and class. And, as always with antinomies, these "robberies" and antagonisms dialectically coexist with mutual cooperation and mutual cultural enrichment. 

Atrocities inflicted on native populations by conquistadors probably far exceed in their cruelty, brutality and totality any ill effects of "American occupation", which, if anything, can be considered relatively mild and non-oppressive: the island was allowed more or less to run its own internal affairs. If we start counting all the senseless cruelty inflicted on each other by various ethnic groups and peoples (and within them) in the course of wars, conflicts and occupations, the world will not have enough memory and not enough tears. 

George Santayana famously said: "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

We can add another paraphrase to it. 

Those who live in the past, those who know and remember only the mistakes and the pains of the past and are not willing or able to break with the shackles of the past, are condemned to perpetual political and historical infancy. 

Links and References 

» A 35 años de los asesinatos en el Cerro Maravilla
25/07/13 10:19 from Metro - Últimas noticias
Un día como hoy, hace 35 años murieron asesinados los jóvenes independentistas Carlos Soto Arriví y...

Pedro Albizu Campos - From Wikipedia

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» Cerro Maravilla murders is a tragic and dark episode in the history of Puerto Rico and its relations with the mainland
23/07/13 13:52 from PUERTO RICO NEWS
» NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political Repression - CounterPunch23/07/13 05:30 from political status of puerto rico - Google NewsNSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political RepressionCounterPunchJuly 28th marks the ...

First Published on 7.23.13     Last Update on 7.25.13 

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