By FERNANDO TORMOS
Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity. Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppressive praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.
Today a new wave of Leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican Left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles. Yet, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, student, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island. This essay contextualizes the Puerto Rican Left in relation to the island’s political economy, identifies the forces in the Puerto Rican Left, reviews their differences and recent history, and presents a brief analysis of their political influence in Puerto Rican and US politics.Read More
By Lily Bui
Disasters unravel--infrastructures, institutions, societies, and assumptions. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season brought forth multiple storms that not only stripped trees bare and dismounted roofs, but it also caught the Caribbean and Gulf Coast unprepared for the magnitude of destruction that such storms could bring, despite the best efforts of the messengers. Nearly half a year after the last hurricane season and half a year away from the onset of the next one, stories about the damage that Hurricane Irma and Maria caused have become hauntingly familiar. The stories less often told, though, are those about the long-term recovery efforts that have inevitably followed since the seas have calmed and the winds have died down.Read More
BY ROBERT COATES
In this post I review disaster risk/reduction in Cuba, particularly in light of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The year after Irma is, for a number of reasons, an appropriate time to revisit the practices, meanings, and politics of disaster risk in this most interesting of cases. While Puerto Rico is negotiating temporary housing, an insufficient budget for critical services, and a disruptive political dispute over the post-disaster privatisation of education, the signs from Cuba are of significant recovery and business-as-usual as it enters the next hurricane season. Further intrigue is added by the fact that Raúl Castro stepped down as Cuban leader in April 2018, ending 59 years of Castro rule. The recent thaw in relations with the US under the Obama administration—and only partially refrozen by Trump—leads us to think through what the future might hold for disaster risk in a state widely considered to be in a process of opening to global influences and markets. I should add that I have as my primary target here an understanding of disaster risk rather than political ideology. Yet, as I will show, viewing the two separately proves impossible, given the clear links between societal form and top-down planning. Viewing them in tandem helps us to consider the mutually reinforcing connections between ideology, political-institutional legitimacy, and the triumph of societal organisation over not-so-natural disasters. As Cuba moves into the post-Castro era, its approach to hurricane exposure remains emphatically exceptional to what’s become a sad Caribbean norm of destitution, debt, blame shifting, and global political ineptness. Clues in dealing with the presence of natural hazards going forward must surely be found in independent analysis, as far as is possible free from twentieth century ideological conjecture.Read More